# Incompetence in the workplace

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
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## Main Question or Discussion Point

Do you spend half of your life compensating for the incompetence of others?

It seems this is all I do sometimes. Granted, we all get too busy [thus sloppy] at times, at least anyone in my line of work does, but really, sometimes the lack of attention to detail by others completely amazes me! I just received a quote for about $10,000 worth of industrial computer parts. After hounding this idiot for a quote for weeks, and after listening to his schmoozing nonsense [which makes my skin crawl btw] for God knows how long, ALL OF THE PART NUMBERS ON THE QUOTE ARE WRONG!!! How do these people survive? BS, that's how! Can anyone here relate to this constant frustration of mine? ## Answers and Replies Related General Discussion News on Phys.org Math Is Hard Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member Ivan Seeking said: Do you spend half of your life compensating for the incompetence of others? It seems this is all I do sometimes. Granted, we all get too busy [thus sloppy] at times, at least anyone in my line of work does, but really, sometimes the lack of attention to detail by others completely amazes me! I just received a quote for about$10,000 worth of industrial computer parts. After hounding this idiot for a quote for weeks, and after listening to his schmoozing nonsense [which makes my skin crawl btw] for God knows how long, ALL OF THE PART NUMBERS ON THE QUOTE ARE WRONG!!! How do these people survive? BS, that's how! Can anyone here relate to this constant frustration of mine?
Remember this book, Ivan?

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Principle

"The Peter Principle is a theory originated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter which states that employees within a hierarchical organization advance to their highest level of competence, are then promoted to a level where they are incompetent, and then stay in that position.

This follows from the use of promotion as a reward for success. As long as a person is competent in his current position, he will be promoted to the next higher one. By iteration, the only way a person can stop being promoted is to reach a level where he is no longer able to do well, and thus does not appear eligible for promotion."

Staff Emeritus
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Oh yes, as a nice adder, since we finally got DSL out here in the backwoods I cancelled my satellite internet service. Since I had no other options for a high speed connection I was forced to put up with the other service for over two years. Over the course of this time, I estimate that I spend about 50 hours on hold and talking with their technical support people. They constantly had to fine tune something from the main site, but each time I had to go through the entire troubleshooting process; maybe 20 times in total. It was always the same problem, I always told them this, and I still spent an hour or two on the phone for each incident - sometimes much more over a period of days! The tech support is in India, and since when I was cancelling my service, they asked why. I gave a long explanation of how technical support is supposed to work, and why I will never pay them another dollar. Having about 25 years of technical and support experience, I felt qualified to comment at great length. I was escalated to the highest level, so I told my story again.

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Math Is Hard said:
Remember this book, Ivan?
I'm a true believer on this one!

Absolutely. I work in an art gallery and art supplies store. I do ALL the computer-related stuff myself. The other people there are artists. They don't know what they want, and they don't know how much effort it is for me to create what they don't know they want. They expect me to wave a magic wand and have everything working pefectly in seconds. They don't seem to realise that programming requires not only knowing another language, or several, but making pages and pages of stuff all fit like a jigsaw puzzle so each part interacts perfectly. Then they go and fire me because they can't afford to pay me any more, then tell me it was a mistake (because they can't make it all work on their own) and they want me back again.

But that's nothing. I used to work in a factory job. For a while, the two jobs overlapped so that I did nights in the factory and days in the gallery. Now, this factory was managed by gimps. They stacked up pallets against fire hose reels, something which is both dangerous and illegal (I pointed this out to the supervisors). They allowed obviously stoned and/or drunk people to operate heavy machinery, a practice which has resulted in amputations there in the past. The whole thing was inefficient, dangerous, and silly. However, I needed the extra money at the time, so I was willing to put up with it.

russ_watters
Mentor
My company makes a substantial percentage of its money in fixing the mistakes of others. The biggest problem is that people take HVAC for granted - even people who should know better, like architects and developers and contractors.

We have a job that just came back to us after a year - we were getting paid hourly for "Contract Administration", which is just watching to make sure the contractor does everything our design calls for. The architect was a penny-pincher and the contractor was complaining we were nitpicking, so they canceled our contract halfway through construction. Last week, the architect faxed us some maintenance reports and we visited the site to check things out. We found places where ductwork was missing and bad soldering on refrigerant piping - some of which we had seen (and reported on) before, some of which we hadn't. Now we're getting paid to do what we should have been paid to do a year ago and as always, what is easy to fix during construction is a bear to fix today (how do you install a duct behind a plaster wall...?)

Another of our clients is a school who'se landlord's contractor installed a grossly deficient system which included fire code violations and no ventilation (code requires 15 CFM per person). A $6,000 design for an expansion turned into$60,000 worth of re-design of the existing building and arguing over who would pay for it. But that's fine with me - not only is it entertaining, but I bill at $85/hr when I'm doing engineering and$125/hr when I'm talking to laywers.

It's always fun when they want to be cheap at the start. :)

BobG
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Right after high school, I worked as a mason's assistant. We built basements, fireplaces, and chimneys (always a good complement to a fireplace).

One of the contractors we worked for always built the most expensive looking houses - gingerbread brick kitchens, exotic fireplaces, dozens of drain spouts from the roof, etc.

Except everything you couldn't see was built as cheaply as possible to bring the house back down to the affordable range. All the drain pipes would tie into one or two pipes underground, so the water would back up and leak into the basement. He refused to believe the floor couldn't hold the weight of his fabulous gingerbread kitchens and fireplaces, so we'd build them until the floor started to sag, jack the floor back up, and build some pillars to support all the brickwork (how many times do we have to do this before he believes us?). Every basement we built for the guy leaked, which meant extra money for me every winter when it was too cold to build basements and chimneys. On one of his houses, the only way I was able to stop it from 'leaking' was to cut away the basement floor, punch holes in the bottom block all around the base, and drain the water from the basement walls into a pipe installed along the base, and then pump the water out.

Well, every basement leaked except one. He built a house in a creek bed, diverting the original creek so it would curl around the house with a little bridge over the creek on the front walk. Only house where he agreed to everything we wanted to do. Really nice looking house, too.

That contractor always made life fun for the carpenters, as well. He'd hire the cheapest carpenter crew he could find to do the 'rough' work (the framing) and then pay extra to get good 'finish' crews that make the end product look good in spite of the sloppy frames.

BoulderHead
Do you spend half of your life compensating for the incompetence of others?
Not really, my 'hands' were too full compensating for incontinence in the workplace…
Can anyone here relate to this constant frustration of mine?
Yeah, I’m just dyslectic enough to understand how tough getting those part numbers might be!

well, I was asked to be the admin for the engineering section of the school computers. As part of this I had to redo all the networking because we got some new mini hubs that were to replace the old 10mbit hubs. So I hooked everything up and daisy chained all four hubs together and everything was working so I left. Next day the net goes down. So they tracked a packet collision where I had just networked all the computers and found that I had accidently hooked up two hubs together. Normally this would just just bring down the local area network, but the lan was also connected to the high school's network which also happend to be connected to the middle school's network. All and all a few thousand people didn't have the internet today because of me.

There you have it. The mind of an incompetant person.

Evo
Mentor
There was so much nepotism and cronyism at the last company I worked for, 8 of the people in my office quit within two weeks, including me, which exposed the remaining few to the scrutiny of upper level management. One of the directors was fired shortly after we left. She had given a \$100,000+/yr job to her dimwit 23 year old son that flunked out of college, he was fired right after her.

Moonbear
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BobG, it sounds like you worked for the same guy one of my friends had build a house for him (one he broke the contract on because the builder was insisting it was done and pushing to get the C.O. while there was still a small lake in the basement...there were a few other shady things and short-cuts caught along the way that my friend decided it was worth the effort of breaking the contract, even if it had to go to court). I think that whole house was built twice, first the way the contractors built it, and then when my friend found what they did wrong each day, they tore down the day's work and did it over again the right way.

I've run into those problems repeatedly of someone ordering the wrong parts for things. Drives me nuts! Oh, and then there was the 6 month delay in opening our new lab animal facility at work (on top of the year delay, which was of course expected for construction at a university). Some dingbat connected ALL the plumbing, including the high pressure cage washers, to the residential water supply instead of the industrial supply (I think that was the distinction...I'm not an engineer...but it had to do with connecting to a lower pressure supply compared with a higher pressure or larger flow supply, or something like that), so every time they tested the cage wash, the water pressure in the rest of the facility dropped to virtually nothing. Most of the delay in fixing it was deciding who would pay to fix it since the project was already delayed and over-budget. Every sink leaked, every door is hung crooked (I'm still waiting on them to get the right type of weather-stripping to finish light-proofing the door for our dark room, 9 months after the facility opened), some nitwit made the executive decision that the rooms shouldn't have floor drains, so the people who work there have to spend ridiculous amounts of time mopping up the water after washing down the rooms rather than just letting it run to a floor drain, and the main entrance won't stay locked because the electric eye that detects someone approaching unlocks it every time someone walks in the hallway. This is the same building where we have two elevator shafts, but only one elevator because they ran over budget and couldn't afford the second elevator, and apparently they could only afford the slowest elevator imaginable (it does inspire us to take stairs...on most days, I can walk the stairs faster than the elevator...it's always fun to wave to someone waiting for the elevator as I head to the stairs, and then greet them at the top when the elevator finally arrives).

Oh, just give me enough time, I could come up with lots of stories of incompetent people!

jimmy p
Gold Member
My cashier is so goddamn useless, he was on a till which wasnt used all day, had no money in it and didnt take any money at all, but at the end of the day he was down by £130.