Posts Tagged ‘sensing’

The Soul of a Project #24: The Peter Principle and YOU!

by Gary Monti on September 4, 2012

The Peter Principle states, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetency.” From a psychological perspective there is a great deal of truth in that statement. Ever wonder why it occurs? Let’s explore based on depth psychology (Carl Jung) and the concept of temperament. Some background will help.

In depth psychology we have 8 function attitudes. These are ways in which we gather and process information. We all have them. Where we vary is in the preferred order in which we use them.

There are two major ways we can gather information: Sensing and Intuiting. These break down further into “extroverted” and “introverted.” Likewise, there are two major ways we can process information: Feeling and Thinking. These, too, break down further into “extroverted” and “introverted.” Combining this information we end up with the following table:



Sensing – extroverted Feeling – extroverted
Sensing – introverted Feeling – introverted
Intuiting – extroverted Thinking – extroverted
Intuiting – introverted Thinking – introverted


We all have all eight. Where we vary as individuals is in the rank order. Also, for each of us, our number 1 gets the highest amount of brainpower while our number 8 is the most difficult to work use. This leads to an interesting dictum.

“For as strong as you are in one part of life there is a corresponding Achilles heel…and there’s no getting around this.”

For example, someone who has Thinking – extroverted as number one has Feeling – extroverted as number eight. What does this mean?

The Thinking – extroverted part means this is a take-charge type of person. She can give orders and take command. Think of an entrepreneur starting a business. There can be a gruffness present that is somewhat abrasive, but things get done! The business grows. It runs like a clock. In fact, it grows to the point that how it is organized (or should I say “disorganized”) is becoming increasingly important. The number of squabbles between employees is increasing and it is showing in terms of how customers are serviced and outsiders view the business.

This is where Peter Principle comes into play. The very strength that grew the business, Thinking – extroverted, has led to a problem that is the most difficult for the founder to solve. Barking more orders only makes things worse.

Feeling – extroverted has been studiously avoided. People are told to suck it up and get the job done. This may sound macho but the reality is the leader is avoiding it because she is at a loss as to how to deal with the issue. In fact, she’s probably afraid of it. There is an important reason as to why this occurs:

Addressing the weaker functions requires putting the strong one aside.

You can probably hear the entrepreneur saying, “Are you crazy! I built this business based on my commanding attitude and now you want me to listen to their feelings! We don’t have time for that! This is a BUSINESS!” At this moment the Peter Principle surfaces in all its flaming glory and if not addressed trouble occurs. That trouble starts with the leader looking foolish and needing to be “understood” and progresses to a tragedy in which clients aren’t getting served, costs go up due to inefficiencies, and the competition starts eating your lunch.

Don’t despair. In the next blog we’ll go a little deeper and see if anything positive can come of this.

When shopping on line when do you decide to purchase? If the features are fairly close to what you want do you go ahead and buy? Or, do you search and search until all the facts have been gathered before making a decision?

What about when you are on the road? At the end of the day would you like to go explore a new restaurant with one of your fellow team members or does going back to the hotel room to just “be” feel best?

In the previous blog gathering and processing information preferences were discussed. Here we will look at the two other major components that go into determining one’s temperament, orientation and energy source. As with the gathering and processing of information what is discussed below is about preference. Each of us practices all the temperament traits but, based on neural wiring, we have preferred ways of orienting and getting energy.


Orientation refers to how we prefer to interface with the outside world. There are two approaches:

Judging, or J, which means there is a desire to come to closure on an issue. The person who buys on-line once fairly close to the desired goal is J, and;

Perceiving, or P, which means there is the desire to get more information. The person who researches on-line (even after making the purchase) is P.

Let’s avoid some common misperceptions regarding these terms. Judging is different than being judgmental. To repeat, judging is the desire for closure and is neutral. Being judgmental is making value statements, e.g., “That person is good (or bad, as the case may be).” Perceiving is the desire to gather information. It is separate from having insight or a crystal ball.


There are two possibilities for gaining energy:

Extraverts, or E’s, gain energy from being around others, socializing, and wanting to deal with exterior things. E’s can tend to make a lot of contacts without going deep, and;

Introverts, or I’s, who prefer going off by themselves to gain energy and turn inward. I’s can tend to have few contacts and go deep into relationships.

E’s are often called “solar panels” because they like excitement and going around soaking up other’s energy. I’s are often called “batteries” since going off and recharging depleted energy stores is a must.

Keep in mind; it’s where one gets energy that determines whether their temperament is E or I. In other words, you can have quiet Extraverts and energetic Introverts. A shy person can be an E and someone who is “out there” can be an I. Culturally, there is a good deal of confusion over this issue which leads to misunderstandings. You can thank Freud for a lot of this because of his big investment in trying to tear down Jung through trash-talking. But that’s fodder for another blog.

Energy, Orientation, and Teams

What value does all this have? The answer is simple. Knowing how a person gets energy and their orientation can both explain and help resolve conflict. For example, an EJ (Extraverted-Judger) may get tired of working on a task, feel he’s done enough, and want to improve his sense of well being by talking with someone and getting their attention. If the person whom they approach is IP (Introverted-Perceiver) then sparks can fly. Why? The IP could get his sense of well-being by being left alone to both stay centered and go deep on a particular task and get more information. You can see where this is going.

When we look at the combinations associated with E vs I and J vs P it becomes increasingly obvious how holding a team together can be a big challenge. But let’s not stop there. Throw in Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N) and Feeling (F) vs Thinking (T) from the previous blog and we are off to the races!

Future blogs will look at issues associated with all the combinations. As Dickens would say, “It can be the best of times and the worst of times.”