by Joseph Habr

Merriam-Webster defines Competence as the ability to do something well; examples: He trusts in the competence of his doctor – We questioned his competence to finish the task without help.

Murphy’s Law states that “People cannot be competent with their present job… The moment they are, they get promoted to a job they know nothing or little about”.

I will not venture to say that this law has never been as true as it is today. However, I can confirm that this is our state of affairs, today.

For a certain, earlier period of time in my professional life, I felt that business dealings and transactions were mostly conducted amongst professionals. I did not need to double check on every little detail in any transaction, deal or shore someone was performing for me or on my behalf; I expected professionals to do what they are supposed to do and to perform the way they are supposed to perform. No one had to produce a questionnaire to measure their performance at the end of a job as an incitement for them to do the right thing. Performing properly and professionally was the norm by default.

A friend of mine with similar views and feelings used to identify people with these fading sets of professional ethics and moralities as “Extinct Dinosaurs.” Oh Michel, you don’t know how right you are!!

One might say that the business and life environments are changing and our mental state should adapt. Not an unacceptable statement if the ways have evolved but the results remain, at the limit, adequate. However, real life is showing us, time and time again, how INCOMPETENT most people around us have become, be they entrepreneurs, business owners, employees, technicians, doctors, engineers … you name it. No job, be it trivial – like ordering food at a restaurant – or highly technical – like engineering a facility – is treated seriously and ethically.

People have developed a sense of disinterest in anything they are doing. One should count his blessings if he gets the attention of the person he is discussing any issue with. It would be a miracle if he gets a response relevant to his question and if he gets what he asked for with the first try. A staggering lack of concentration on the part of the interlocutor will leave you wondering whether he has heard you, whether you are speaking his language, whether you are talking about a subject relevant to the venue and whether he is present beyond the physical.

If and when you get your request through, Performance is the second stage of nerve testing. People manning different positions are there to perform certain tasks. They are supposedly adequately trained to perform, in a satisfactory manner, the tasks at hand.

They are getting paid to do so.

They wake up in the morning and drive mile after mile, speeding here and going through a red light there, to be at work on time.

They sit behind nice, clean desks and flip the “OPEN FOR BUSINESS” sign. And this is when the nightmare begins.

Aggravation; task after task, subject after subject, until the time one starts doubting himself. Am I too demanding? Is what I am asking for hard to accomplish? Is it only happening to me and the others have grown old complaining? Why do people perform so poorly, cutting corners anytime they can, substituting alternative to authentic?

I have always tried to understand what was behind the poor performance I am encountering, left and right, and I came up with some interpretations:

Some people are genuinely disinterested in what they do. They find Texting, Facebooking, Chatting … much more engaging than doing a job they are getting paid to do. They live a virtual life, counting Hits and enjoying Likes. I have actually encountered a 25 years old man proudly informing his mate that he had captured 2 “Pikachu” characters the previous day! I felt happy for him and for humanity…

Others are the complaining type: we are not getting paid enough for our work so, why should we worry. I cannot and will not discuss their relationship with their employer who might be exploiting them. However, as a customer, I am paying for goods or service and I am expecting quality goods and proper service. This is my right. I am sure no one will accept to pay full price and receive half service, not even the complaining employees themselves, so what gives??

Another type of sub-performers are the technical people who are supposed to know their craft better than the everyday Jo. Well, I found out from multiple experiences that, if I don’t know what the problem is and have an idea about how to solve it, these technical people are ready to take me and others on an unethical journey that can empty my pockets and not get me results. Mechanics, sales agents, insurance agents, doctors … all fall in this category.

Is Incompetence a direct consequence of thinking Cheap and acting Cheap - because Cheap is who we are today?

Or is incompetence the result of a life becoming more demanding and more sophisticated?

Is automation and the spread of computers behind our decreasing use of our brains and skills, leading to their atrophy?

I don’t know the answer and I won’t be looking for one. All I know is that we are in a bad place and I am getting fed up!!!