I Just Wanted To Say...

What is your problem?

Name:
Location: Georgia, United States

I am me. More than I was, less than I will be. This is difficult. Facts-female, southern, mother and grandmother. Abstract-a Christian, a loner, intelligent, somewhat arrogant, impatient with stupidity, an unusual sense of humor.

7/23/2005

Mediocrity

There have been administrative changes in certain offices around the courthouse in the last six months. Because of these changes, I have become aware of a facet of human nature I haven't given much thought to before. Though the same thing is going on in more than one office, I'm going to focus on one office in particular.

This particular office has five different positions and about 30 people working in those positions. Based on my past experience with them, the people who worked there had a higher level of competency than you would generally expect to find in a government office. Which, of course, makes it a real pleasure to do business with them.


The administrative change I refer to is a new boss, who started in the office about six months ago. I had to work with this particular person before they gained the position. On a scale of 1-10 for competency, I would, if I were inclined to be generous, give them a 5 or 5.5, but no more. This person has a tendency to be careless with paperwork, to be disinclined to listen to anything they don't want to hear, to be less than diligent about showing up on time, given to making excuses as to why they didn't accomplish what they should have, taking all the credit if something goes well and none of the responsibility if something goes wrong and worst of all, if something goes wrong, it is always someone else's fault and they have no problem publicly casting whatever blame there is on someone else. They have almost no organizational skills and no real concept of how this particular office operates or the operational needs involved in the efficient administration of the office.

Since taking charge of the office, thirteen people have found new jobs elsewhere or have been fired. Twelve of them were either exceptional or very good at their jobs. Of the remaining employees, there are perhaps six of them whom I would consider to be at that level. The rest are okay or barely competent. This person has filled eight of the empty positions with people whom I would consider barely competent to do the work, with one notable exception.

So from an office where two-thirds of the staff could be considered very good at their jobs, it has devolved into an office where less than one-quarter of the staff is capable of doing consistent quality work. Considering how inter-connected the court system is, if one office isn't functioning well, the negative effect spreads itself around, so of course, my job has become correspondingly difficult.

Seeing this develop over these months, I have become aware of this--
Mediocre people in positions of power don't seem to want quality, competent people working for them. They don't seem to be able to handle having anyone around them who rises above their own level of mediocrity. And they make concerted efforts to get rid of competent people one way or another and will only replace them with people who are as inefficient as themselves.

It is disheartening to see a well-run, efficient organization slowly grind down to an office that is barely functional. Which brings to mind this adage---
Cream rises to the top; but then, so does pond scum. And pond scum tends to choke out every good thing below it. I have no choice but to watch it happen and deal with the outcome as best I can.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Phelps said...

I see it from a different angle. First, incompetent people can't recognize competence. They need to be competent to tell what skills one needs to be competent. (It's a vicious cycle.) That means that several things happen:

* The competent people know the boss is incompetent

* The incompetent people don't know that the boss is incompetent (being incompetent themselves)

* The boss can't tell the difference between the competent and incompetent people.

What happens next is obvious. The competent people demand more (resources, deference, responsibility) and become increasingly dissastified in that they aren't getting this (because the boss is incompetent.) Add to it that they are highly salable, because they are competent, and you have a recipe for brain drain.

The incompetent, on the other hand, are golden under an incompetent boss. They don't demand more (because they wouldn't know what to do with it) and don't know that the boss is an F-up. They see everyone else leaving, and realize they can take thier jobs. The boss doesn't try to stop the competent from leaving, because he has other (incompetent) workers to replace them.

Pretty soon, all the competent people are gone (as the incompetence pressure increases) and all that is left are incometent people who can't figure out why nothing is going right.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Peggy said...

I hadn't thought about it that way. Now that you mention it, I do remember a study from about five years ago that showed that whatever mental factors were necessary to be competent were also necessary in order to recognize competence in others. So you must be right.

9:34 PM  

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