Sometimes They Are Malicious and Stupid

“Never attribute to malice, that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Robert J. Hanlon

I used to have this quote sitting at my desk, until one day a director came by and it grabbed his attention for a unusually long time. Having had some unpleasant interactions with the self-righteous windbag, I wasn’t sure if he thought that was meant for him or could a person of my caliber know or even fathom the existence of an Occam’s Razor (or in this case Hanlon’s Razor). Anywho, I would put up such pithy sayings because it was representative of my interactions with some of those pesky humans who believed themselves to be infallible, smart and a part of the cool kids club (aka members of the nepotism hall of shame).

When you know you are a very competent individual who likes to kick ass and take names, it is easy to spot those who get by on favors. For a long time, I would find myself frustrated. Not for lack of trying to accomplish a task, but by co-workers who had conflicting values and competing priorities, you know office politics. Doesn’t matter where they reside on the hierarchical corporate food chain, I discovered that the patterns where repetitive. What could this mean?

If we compare, and we always do, it is one thing to attribute stupidity to someone who holds a position that in no way is commensurate with one’s own level of knowledge, experience and education. More than we are willing to admit, we do this quite naturally. Some may say the proper word is ignorance; yet, we default to using the word stupidity because we are comfortable with being condescending when we think it somehow provides us with an advantage over someone else.

Let’s be real and at the risk of so many tender and delicate flowers in this day and age, we must accept the reality that a front line worker at any given restaurant is not the intellectual equivalent of an astronaut. That’s not being cruel. That is reality and that is life, so deal with it.

On the other hand, and they exist in multiple industries, there are those who have all the bells, whistles and trappings of corporate prestige, but are dumb as rocks. It is becoming more prevalent as we are moving forward into automated intelligence and remote work environments. In a physical office, one can hide behind office props, the hustle and bustle of moving from one meeting to the next and being seen in conference rooms, spending countless hours as onlookers peeping through can see charts, slides and graphs. But when these same people hit the floor, they make a whole lot of noise and produce zero results.

If you are in a management position, it is not your job to do the work of your subordinates. I would go a step further and say you aren’t even suppose to tell them what to do as that perpetuates another level of ongoing stupidity. It is the job of one to provide guidance and instruction, that can only come with proven experience, tested intuition and at times when necessary a little bit of street smarts. But what makes some of these corporate mice dangerous is when they fear anyone and anything poses a threat to their coveted cheese. Not only are they void of understanding, they lack discernment and assume everything good, bad or indifferent from others as a direct response to them. And in assuming so, they make the grave mistake of thinking people beneath them are their enemies and those above them are friends.

The stupidity of this is obvious. What is not so apparent is the evil. These people are so insecure and afraid, that they will sabotage your work (in part because of their incompetence), drop very “necessary” balls and feign innocence when they are shattered. What you need to do is stop making excuses for this loathsome behavior because you are afraid to judge yourself. They may look like the person who gets along great with everyone. They may be known as the most easy going person, and do well with office politics because they go along to get along; however, they are toxic, controlling, dishonest and manipulative.

What are some of the breadcrumbs they leave behind? In addition to what was already mentioned, they knowingly misguide you, never admit mistakes, give you “personality” but never proper recognition to name a few. And if you really want to know how inadequate your manager is, find out how many tasks are disguised as “delegated responsibilities” when they themselves should be doing the work.

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