Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Work Rants - Competence

Today's rant is about competence in the workplace, or really the lack thereof. There's a wide variety of work rants I can go off on but for today, let's just stick with incompetence since there's obviously a critical overload of it at the place I work.

We know all about incompetence in the workplace. We've witnessed it, we've had to right the wrong from it, perhaps even displayed a bit of it ourselves. We know it exists, prevalently. We've even watched episodes of The Office that mock it or read comic strips about it (remember Dilbert?). And they're funny. But when you're forced to deal with it in real life, on a daily basis, your humor disappears quicker than a dime bag at a Cheech and Chong film festival.

Before I get too far into my rant, I want to make sure I clarify what I consider incompetence. We are human and we make mistakes, like it or not. Errors can occur for many reasons, such as temporary lapse of judgement. Webster defines an error in judgement as:

an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done.
Webster defines competent as:

having requisite or adequate ability or qualities.
It doesn't necessarily mean a person who erred due to an error in judgement is incompetent. But being consistently wrong, well...if it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck...

So back to to the cause of today's rant...

Three people at work in the last week have managed to get one step further to being outed as incompetent. Problem is, the people who should be listening aren't and the people complaining are just singing to the choir. One guy in particular, whom I was against hiring in the first place, has really been pissing several people off lately, one of them being me. You know this guy. He's the one that struts around trying to show off how smart he is by challenging people with his so-called knowledge. That guy who's quick to answer questions even before the questions are asked. The one who questions you with that defiance in his voice while squaring up his shoulder, and "harumphing" even after you prove that you were right. The one who talks down to you like you are some kind of idiot. Yeah, him. Let's refer to him as Mr. Harumph.

Mr. Harumph didn't piss me off because he's arrogant, or because he suffers from a form of narcissistic personality disorder, or the fact that he's rude and unprofessional, or because he treats everyone like they are idiots. Well, okay, that stuff do piss me off but the coup de grace is that he's also incompetent, and incompetence + arrogance sends me off the deep end. These are the kind of people who try to blame others for their own mistakes. The kind who comes up with excuses (mostly half assed) of not being able to get something done on time or done right the first time (or second or third). The kind of people who cannot manage their own work load and burden other employees to pick up the slack. These are the people who make an otherwise tolerable work environment hostile.

There are too many things that Mr. Harumph does so I won't even bother listing them. For Pete's sake, this is a blog. But let me sum it up by providing one last analogy (as if you haven't gotten the picture yet). He's the kind of guy who would make an otherwise sane person want to bring public flogging into the workplace. (This is not to say that a person who believes in public flogging is insane.) Yeah, that guy. You know him well and don't you just want to slap the sneer right off his face? [whap!]

I think of myself as a fairly intellectual person, not stupid by any means. But I can't help but to ask myself, how do all these incompetent people keep their jobs, or find new ones, or worst, get promoted? Yes, the Peter Principle is alive and well. And how is it not possible for the rest of the competent work force to rid them? Begs one to ask if perhaps we are the incompetent (deep, I know). Too smart for our own good? Quite possibly.

So in a vain attempt to beseech anyone who works with a Mr. (or Ms.) Harumph, join the fight and STOP THE INCOMPETENCE! How? I have no friggin' idea or else I'd be up for a Pulitzer. But just so you and I don't feel alone, here is a small sampling of how rampant it is. Food for fodder and the next good cause. Now go and eat well.

Words of Nil Devine

Can We Turn Back the Rising Tide of Incompetence?

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Working With Idiots

No comments: