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The Price of Competence

Could somebody please tell me when competence became a sin?


I just never thought that I would show up for a new job, require all of one hour of training before I'm operating full-tilt-boogie, and then have my boss and fellow employers start a campaign of incessant scrutiny in an attempt to find my errors. Well, that's not true, any employer should keep an eye on any new employee in order to make sure that they are performing their duties in a competent manner. In my line of business, title insurance, it is particularly true. On any given day, I'm one part real estate attorney, one part surveyor, one part customer service rep, and one part troubleshooter. I have city planning commissioners call me for real estate law interpretation. On any given day, I make decisions involving millions of dollars worth of company liability. But I have the training and education to do this. It's what they pay me for.

The thing is, you see, they've never hired anyone before who didn't take six months to get up to speed. But my boss knows better. She brings the most complicated issues to me for resolution.

But then, she keeps trying to second guess me. She keeps lying things on my desk with nasty notes like, "This isn't correct. Fix it immediately." The problem is, every single time she's done this, I've went into her office and explained why it was correct. I think she's tired of apoligizing.

So my question to you is, is competence such a threat? You'd think that, as an employer, you'd want people working for you that know their job. You'd think that you'd want to be able to rely on their judgement. Maybe I'm too old school.

I mean, after all, "Whatever," is a popular, cool way of saying, "I'm too dumb to win this argument, but I want to look cool, anyway." That word has never gone out of vogue. Why? Because pop culture is telling us that stupid is cool. If you give a shit about politics and argue your beliefs, half the room rolls their eyes and says, "There he goes again," and leaves. If you take an educated stand on anything, you're a bastard because you're alienating the people in the room who never bothered to keep up with their education enough to keep up with the conversation. If you disagree with someone, you're the biggest fuck on the planet because, "Wow. We just wanted to have a good time . . ."

Fuck that, people. Do yourself a favor and stop emulating Pheobe and start emulating someone who matters. Even Lisa Kudro isn't that stupid. It's no wonder George Bush got elected. Nobody cares enough anymore to discuss anything even remotely political until it's too damned late.

We're afraid of anyone with an opinion or with whom we can't push into an unassuming corner of our universe. We're afraid that anyone who might be competent is after our job.

So for those of you out there who usually roll your eyes when a heated discussion breaks out at a party, stick with it next time. Ask questions if you don't understand the entirety of the issues. No one will think you're stupid if you ask questions.

We'll only think you're a moron if you roll your eyes and walk away. It's the non-verbal equivalant of "Whatever."

And don't be afraid of someone who knows more than you. Use them until that condition no longer exists. It teaches you, and it ennobles them. It's a good trade.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss.

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