IN PRAISE OF SALTPETER
Posted by Tim Bryce on June 30, 2014
BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT
– How do we deal with incompetence?
While driving around on a busy rush hour morning, it occurred to me that we tend to express ourselves differently when it comes to incompetence. On the road, there seems to be a handful of people who actually know what they are doing, everyone else seems to be driving in la-la-land. There are the soccer moms who are either texting or yacking away on the phone, teens flying by at Warp 4 to get to school, tired workers not looking forward to the day ahead of them, and the elderly who have no business being on the road early in the morning, other than to irritate the rest of us. You get the picture. I could live with all of their foibles if they just concentrated on driving, but they do not. They are in their own world, oblivious to everyone around them, thereby forcing the rest of us to drive defensively. Personally, I like driving, always have, but not with the nut jobs during rush hour.
Driving is not dissimilar to working in a business or dealing with government. I have discovered people tend to react to incompetence either by one extreme or another. For example, there is the “Blow your stack” variety who deals out tongue lashings and are past masters of the one finger salute. Then there is the passive approach whereby you give the person the benefit of a doubt and offer suggestions for them to correct themselves. The only problem is, they do not pick up on the hints. Two opposing extremes for dealing with incompetence, neither is really effective as people are self-centered and ignore your displeasure.
I tend to be more moderate in my efforts to communicate with them as I do not want to see my blood pressure explode off the charts. In business, I have found it necessary to voice my displeasure matter-of-factually when something goes wrong. Dropping hints simply doesn’t work, and yelling at people is not considered politically correct; then again, you feel much better for blowing off steam. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work which is why I try to be more matter-of-fact when a problem or error occurs.
So, aside from the three alternatives, (Blowing your stack, dropping a hint, or matter-of-fact), what else can we do about incompetence? Ridicule can be effective, which could be construed as a form of bullying, but it can also be effective in motivating a person to perform better. We can also try to “run them off the road,” thereby pushing the person to either improve or drop out. One bit of advice though, do not try to run off a Hummer with a VW Beetle. It’s an old expression meaning you might get crushed if you are not careful.
Finally, you can register a complaint, which is particularly useful when dealing with the government. It will inevitably have to contend with an arduous bureaucratic process, but it may very well be worth it in the end. In business, an Employee Evaluation Form is typically used to document your displeasure with an employee. The good thing about documenting a complaint is that it can ultimately be used in a lawsuit later on, assuming you want to go to the trouble.
How we deal with incompetence is a matter of our degree of patience. The older and more experienced you get, the shorter the fuse. Then again, I’ve seen several young people who also possess a short fuse.
Maybe if we just had a regular diet of saltpeter, we would be more patient, and people would be less incompetent. If this were so, we would be less likely to lay on the horn in traffic, give the one finger salute, yell at an employee, develop ulcers, and maybe, just maybe, people might start to focus on their work.
Instead of fluoride, let’s just add some saltpeter to our water supply and see what happens.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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