Sunday, January 29, 2012


in-com-pe-tent: 1. BAD AT DOING SOMETHING lacking the skills, qualities, or ability to do something properly…n. SOMEBODY BAD AT DOING SOMETHING somebody who lacks the skills, qualities, or ability to do something properly

People today seem to be fearful of many things: identity theft, dropped phone calls, bad hair. Fear is widespread and usually shallow in nature. Meanwhile, there is at least one pressing problem that threatens each of us on a daily basis.

That problem is incompetence.

Once you start taking notice of its presence, you will be shocked to see how prevalent incompetence has infiltrated into our existence.

As pundits have tried to assess what has happened to our economy in the past few years, they have hit upon one theme -- the good old USA no longer produces many goods. Fifty years ago, countless products were manufactured here -- appliances, electronics, apparel, shoes -- in fact, most of what we needed for a comfortable life. Foreign imports were poorly made and viewed as second rate.

In recent decades, however, the balance of trade has tipped to the point that nearly everything we buy is imported.

As a result, practically the only goods produced here relate to the service industry. That means that bank tellers, wait staff and health care professionals represent a large percentage of all employers. The tasks they perform keep the country functioning.

Too bad that such a majority of these people is incompetent.

I could cite a significant number of incidents to confirm this fact, but that would mean giving specifics and would necessitate my enrollment in the witness protection program.

Begin today to pay attention to those you encounter who are incompetent, whether it is providing poor service, giving incorrect information or staring at you with blank eyes and a look of incomprehension. "Did you not hear me?" "Did you not know I was asking what side dishes are included?" "Is the question too hard for you?"

Perhaps incompetence is generational. Older workers know when to provide information in response to a question or when to identify someone else who can handle the situation. Younger workers must believe that if they say and do nothing, the matter will resolve itself and they can move forward to the next problem.

A friend of mine observed that people would rather provide incorrect information than admit they didn't know the answer. If you doubt this, ask someone for directions and see how often they say that they don't know. It will not happen. Instead, they will take a stab at an answer, even if it is wrong.

Doctors provide the best "guess" to your question rather than admit they don't have the answer. The physicians' guide must include a reference such as "Say something to pass the time and placate the patient." I have seen this too often to doubt that fact.

If the US has become exclusively a provider of customer service, why can't we make more of an effort to provide customer service? If all we produce is good will, why not make sure that correct information is given to the customer?

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