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Put an Idiot in a Position of Influence

I have come to the point in my life when conversation when I sit down with the boys who once played football for me has evolved beyond girls, sex and Counter Strike. Many of the boys who played for me have done well with their lives; and this is something that gives me great satisfaction. When I do get together with these boys, we still reminisce the old days; but we also go into mature conversations about, say, career and management.

I also take great satisfaction from talking to my boys as peers; especially when the topic is their careers and the workplace. Sometimes, and not that I mind, I take on the role of management consultant. For free, of course; and often during lunch after a brisk game of football.

Yesterday, for instance, one my boys opened up about an incident at the service company branch where he works in a supervisorial capacity. The head of operations, he told me, arrived one busy weekend from the head office for what was apparently a spot inspection.

And started to push his weight around the place...

If he is so vain that he really wants all company employees to know him, a memo to all with instructions for everyone to memorise his name and face till they vomit will do the trick.
It was a weekend and customer volume was unusually heavy. The crew on duty, naturally, had their hands full. It was that sort of weekend. And the most unfortunate time for the head of operations to arrive.

Before long he was complaining about just about everything. The guard did not render parking assistance. He wanted the guard fired.

The crew was busy attending to customers. He was affronted that he was not getting the attention that he thought he deserved and that some members of the crew did not seem to know who he was. And loudly let everyone know his displeasure.

Now my player, in charge of the crew that he was, was made to explain to his immediate supervisor about the crew’s inattentiveness.

“Was the visit pre-arranged and announced to everyone?” I wanted to clarify. No, my player told me. The operations head arrived without warning. Probably a spot check, I concluded.

It was an easy enough situation to assess; and I summed it up for my player in a simple statement: “Put an idiot in a position of influence and cringe at the things he will do to look the part.”

Believe me; I have seen the sort. Every workplace has these.

In a perfect world, those who move up the corporate ladder do so on the basis of merit. As we all know, the world is not perfect.

Some get into positions of influence not because they deserve it but because they are related to the owners. Some make full use of their gifts of gab and bullshit their way up the ladder. Others have crap on the tips of their tongues from the butt cracks they have licked. And there are those who move up because management just cannot tell the gold from the garbage.

To these people, having the position ultimately means so much more than doing a good job. Hence, they often do not command natural respect from those beneath them; and have to find ways to compensate for this lack. Fear and use of power, it goes without saying, is to them better than respect.

Of course, they ultimately give away what they really are through the things that they do. Take this operations head that I was talking about.

If the intention of his visit was really to conduct a spot check, then the best way to do so was to observe unnoticed. Were I in his shoes, I would have been upset if the crew got on their toes only because of my presence.

When I was in management, I told my player, if I visited the departments under my jurisdiction, it was not uncommon for me to tell the staff not to mind me and to get on with what they were doing. Thus, I continued, their operations head should have been happy instead of upset that everyone was working!

God knows there are enough slackers in the workplace who leave Facebook only at the sight of the boss. Or pretend to be busy but are in fact enrapt in Windows Minesweeper. Or Solitaire.

I have seen those, too!

As to some members of the crew not knowing who he was, that was a consequence of the hiring and training process which ultimately rebounds back to him. If he is so vain that he really wants all company employees to know him, a memo to all with instructions for everyone to memorise his name and face till they vomit will do the trick.

What an arse! And every workplace has them... Give an idiot a position and he starts to think he is God.

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