Scott Adams, formerly a mid-level manager assigned to cubicle 4S700R at the Pacific Bell headquarters, wrote The Dilbert Principle in 1997. Adams was a Pacific Bell cubicle dweller for nine years until he was "downsized" when his department came under new management. The book points out a humorous but very logical argument against the illogical management practices of most companies. Scott Adams puts things in perspective, by acknowledging the truth. Unlike other business books, Adams actually illustrates the truth by giving examples through comic strips within the book. Even though most of his examples are somewhat fictitious, his research (mostly through letters and e-mail messages from his readers) and highly subjective first-hand reports of his own experiences in "the cubicle" provide Adams with overwhelming proof that the "Peter Principle" has been replaced by the "Dilbert Principle".

The “Peter Principle” means that competent workers are promoted until they reached their level of incompetence. Whereas The “Dilbert Principle” means the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage, which happens to be management. That's the essence and message of The Dilbert Principle. The book exposes the day-to-day doings at the workplace and reveals the symbolic meaning of different physical objects at the workplace. For example, Adams explains why a secretary's chair never has arm rests, and how a necktie equals a leash, or how panty hose equal leg irons, and high heels are the undeniable mark of a masochist.

Dilbert is a cartoon hero who takes on corporate America's evil bosses and bizarre management trends. He is a composite of Scott Adams’ co-workers over the years. Dilbert is an engineer, about thirty years old, and works at an undisclosed high-tech company in Northern California. Dilbert is very intelligent and kind-hearted.

Positives and Negatives

The Dilbert Principle is strikingly funny. The Dilbert Principle combines all the aspects of a serious management book with hilarious jokes and occasional cartoons. The characters, the settings, the attitudes described in the book are real and reflect what truly happens in corporate America. Adams's writing and cartoons probe into almost every side of corporate life from idiotic management trends (re-engineering, downsizing, quality teams) to ordinary episodes involving idiotic middle managers. His views on general office situations are so sharp and familiar that you know he's been there, which he has. For example, the accepted rules of hallway etiquette cover only the first two times you run into the same person the same day. Also he talks about the incompetent manager, such as in the comic strip when Dilbert is wondering will his boss ever find out his portable PC is really an etch-a-sketch. The examples, cartoons, and pictures drive the point home; it really pinches and makes one realize the better side of life. The actual e-mail that Adams has received from readers about their work situation, such as corporate culture, and dumb things done by "superiors" are hilarious, but yet informative. Scott Adams has reviewed the Peter Principle and put it in context for today's world. It extends, expands, and corrects the concepts presented in the Peter Principle. This is not a book about becoming an effective manager. It is all about becoming a successful manager. The book will help recent college graduates who have yet to become inhabitants of the business industry.

However, his sarcastic words are considerably less humorous than in his previous comics. Readers can be left with a bitter feeling, even when the final chapter, which we believe reflects the author's true viewpoint, somewhat eases the effect. The author certainly leaves no stone of corporate idiocy unturned; but we wonder are many of the management people really like that? While the sarcastic humor is initially funny, it loses appeal quickly, especially due to Adams uninspired writing. To make matters worse, the comics spread throughout the book is repeated, one at least 3 times. Also, some of the chapters are a bit too long and drawn out.