Re: A Case for Incompetence

by The Inmate

Thankfully they’re not all that great when they’re here so I don’t miss them that much.

—J.L., employee commenting on the absence of her colleagues

All things considered the United States of America is not such a bad place to live.  However, contrary to what every politician on either side of election day and this side of their remarkable pension plans would have us believe it is not because of their great leadership.  The truth is it has nothing to do with greatness and everything to do with incompetence.  The political arena attracts not the cream of the crop but the weeds.  This is as it should be.  Government, though necessary, is not that necessary.  If all the competent people ran for office that would leave all the incompetent people to do the things that in reality make this country work–and then it wouldn’t work.  Competent politicians would, ironically, be accused of incompetence by the incompetents who ruined the country.  If, however, competent people remain in the general citizenry the country will continue to run effectively and efficiently despite the fact that a bunch of incompetent boobs(this is not meant to demean breasts, their competence, particularly female breasts, is a well-established fact) are the ones debating, posturing, kissing babies(or interns or who knows what else), prostituting, reading speeches they could not have written, marketing and deceiving themselves.

Things are not a lot different in the corporation.  To figure out what jobs are the most necessary and which are not, one simply has to answer this question:  when a position is vacated either by a resignation, a retirement, a death, an insanity plea, season ticket considerations or enlightenment how long does it take to fill it?  My company was once without a CEO for nearly a year.  What does that tell you?  But if a courier, the lowest rung on our corporate ladder, calls in sick wild pandemonium ensues for the better part of the day.  If two couriers call in sick management begins considering its options: a two- instead of one-pack day, Monster.com, a death in the family and/or the phrase, spoken loudly, “I don’t care how, just do it!”  That last one really works well.

Incompetence, however, can solve problems like this.  If an incompetent employee calls in sick, who cares?  What did they do at work?  They drank coffee, they used the phone, they surfed the net, they wrote memos and organized meetings.  Is anybody going to miss that?  Similarly, if an incompetent employee leaves.  What happens?  Nothing.  The same thing that happened when they were there.  Business moves on as usual.  No one has to adjust, nothing changes, another incompetent person moves into the position, nothing gets done again and everyone is happy.

Competence, in reality, is a big problem.  Admittedly, it is a rare occurrence, but when it happens it can be devastating.  Competent individuals are capable of making themselves necessary even in unnecessary positions.  So if they leave or get sick they leave a huge gap where none existed before and the chances of finding another competent individual to fill that gap are very slim.

Another problem is no one has much experience with competence, hence bosses are never really quite sure what to do with competent workers.  If they tell them to do something, not only might they actually do it, but they often do it well and on time.  This makes everyone else feel inferior and this is startlingly bad for company morale.  If morale is low, productivity is low, the bottom-line suffers, managers get stressed, upper-management not knowing what else to do starts making decisions, stock prices drop, stockholders start selling and before anyone has time to react the company relocates to China.  The only one able to find another decent job is the competent S.O.B. who started the disaster in the first place.

Competence even affects life outside the corporation.  Consider my plight as editor of The Corporate Asylum.   Unfortunately, I now work for competent supervisors.  Most of the material I used to get for this site was a direct result of incompetent management.  What am I supposed to do now?  Competence could ruin my dream of brainwashing millions and millions of fellow workers.  Okay, okay, I am probably overreacting.  Competent managers, for reasons that still baffle me, will move up the corporate ladder only to be replaced by incompetent ones thus providing me with more material than I will ever need or want.  Until the incompetent ones come to redeem me I’ll have to devise new methods to survive this unrelenting rash of competence.  Wish me luck.

The lesson in all this is simple:  hire incompetent people.  By doing this sick calls, retirements, resignations and firings will all cease to be traumatic and the workplace can maintain the benign consistency that makes status quo the mantra of our time.

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