Creating a Culture of Incompetence

despair.comHaving worked in many different settings with many different management styles, I find it interesting and depressing that there are so many managers out there actively creating cultures of incompetence.

One of the groups that I worked for has a person who had been on the team his entire professional career. He was considered the expert on one of the major products and on the tool that was used to create the product. There was a major modification that needed to be made. The people making the modification went through all the correct steps to ensure that the new and improved product would be a success. The product was put into production and a few months later customers started complaining about problems with the product.

Mr. Genius said, “Oh, I could have told you that you’d hit that problem.” Biting my tongue, I asked him why he didn’t tell us. “Well, no one asked the right question.”

Brilliant. Someone didn’t ask just the right question in order to ferret out his advice so that the group could have avoided embarrassment and a black eye with the customer. If I had been in management, I would have fired him on the spot. Would I have fired him because he didn’t have something useful to contribute? No, he had plenty useful to contribute. But he didn’t contribute it! Making him useless.

How did Mr. Genius get to the position where he felt that he should hold back and not let people know they were going down the wrong path? Simple, management had trained him over the years to not speak up unless asked.

You’re kidding, management would actually do that?

Well, yes. At my wife’s work they have hit a problem that has over half the organization completely wrapped around the axle trying to solve (apparently they’ve been trying to solve this problem for over four months). After doing research on the subject my wife suggested a possible solution in the middle of a meeting. Well, this may not have been completely politically correct because the so-called experts on the subject were too incompetent to fix the problem for the last several months – so just who the heck does she think she is offering advice on solving the problem. So, rather than thank her for her input, management rewards her with a reprimand.

Brilliant. Not only do they disregard a possible solution for their current problem, but they’ve effectively silenced a source for solutions to future problems. Not only that, the message loud a clear to all employees is Don’t offer solutions or we’ll penalize you for it.

Frankly, I’m encouraging my wife to resign from that organization. Any organization that screwed up is going to fail over the long haul. People will not offer solutions, they will sweep problems under the rug, and the entire organization will sink into the depths of incompetence.


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