Woman Explains Why Workers Who Are ‘Good At Their Job’ And A ‘Pleasure To Work With’ Never Get Promoted

"It's the devil you know versus the devil you don't."

woman working on laptop Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels 

According to a theory called “The Peter Principle,” which was established in 1969 by Dr. Laurence J. Peter, companies face a paradoxical issue when they promote workers who are good at their jobs. The theory posits that people will get promoted until they’re no longer successful, rising to a level of incompetence. 

One worker, Jacqueline Morris, shared a theory about promotions that connects to the Peter Principle’s main argument.


Morris explained that workers who are ‘good at their job’ and a ‘pleasure to work with’ never get promoted.

“My conspiracy theory, the hill that I will die on, is if you are both good at your job and a pleasure to work with, like, you have a good personality, you generally get along with people, you will never be promoted,” Morris said. 



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“You will never be promoted out of a, like, hard-working, more junior position where a lot of the hard work exists.”

She laid out the details of her theory, describing the interplay between personality and success.

“If you are in an executive suite, you do not have to be a pleasure to work with or good at your job, right? You don’t have to be either of those,” she said. “If you are at a VP or director level, you can either be really good at your job or a pleasure to work with. You don’t have to be both, and sometimes, people are still neither.”

Woman Explains Why Workers Who Are Good At Their Job And A Pleasure To Work With Never Get Promoted Photo : Ivan Samkov / Pexels 


Morris touched on the idea that a certain personality type is rewarded in the corporate world. Outspoken, direct, and somewhat aggressive qualities are rewarded in higher-level positions, yet when someone on a lower level exhibits those traits, they’re seen as difficult or abrasive. 

Gender can play a big role in who gets a promotion, as well. 

Danielle Li, an associate professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, conducted research that uncovered a wholly unsurprising fact: Women are less likely to be promoted at work than men.

Li found that women get higher performance ratings on average than their male counterparts, yet their ratings for potential were 8.3% lower than the men’s. This fact translated into women being 14% less likely to gain promotions at work than men. 


Morris continued her explanation, noting, “If you’re down here, where all of the actual work is being done— It’s not being directed, it’s not being strategized. You’re doing the literal work. They will never allow an employee that is both good at doing the work and good at keeping a smile on their face while doing the work to move up that ladder.”

“They know they can keep serving you [expletive] on a platter, and you will eat it with a smile,” she said. 

“I don’t know how to get out of that cycle, but I believe in it,” Morris concluded. “It’s a curse.”

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People in the comments section shared their own experiences of working hard but not getting promoted.

One person described it as “performance punishment.”

Another person noted that hard workers are often told, “You’re ‘too valuable’ in your current role."

A former HR worker spoke to Morris directly, declaring, “You are absolutely correct.”

Woman Explains Why Workers Who Are Good At Their Job And A Pleasure To Work With Never Get Promoted Photo: cottonbro studio / Pexels 


“Change jobs,” another person advised. “You will come off so well to new employers for that exact reason.”

Morris responded, “I think this is a nice idea, but when you’re in a super small job pool like I am, you might not be able to afford a salary cut just to move companies.”

She likened the situation to “The devil you know versus the devil you don’t.”  

A 2023 study from the Pew Research Center found that workers with higher incomes are more likely to express job satisfaction than people with lower or middle incomes.


57% of employees with higher family incomes reported being extremely or very satisfied overall, compared to 51% of workers with middle incomes and 45% with lower incomes. 

blonde woman sitting at work desk pinching the bridge of her nose Prostock-studio / Canva Pro

Age plays a part in job satisfaction, as well. Two-thirds of employees aged 65 and above said they were extremely satisfied with their jobs, compared to 55% of people ages 50 to 62 and 51% of people who are 30 to 49 years old. Only 44% of people between 18 and 29 reported being satisfied with their jobs.


It would appear that Morris' self-titled “conspiracy theory” actually holds true, which doesn’t bode well for dedicated employees who tend to be people-pleasers. 

Everyone deserves to feel appreciated and seen at their places of work, no matter what position they hold or how low down they are on the corporate ladder. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture analysis, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.