Q: OK, let's try this again.
A: Good. Glad you are back - suggesting a break was a super idea.
Q: Yeah; better than punching you in the nose. So, we were talking about working for a bozo.
A: Yes; however “bozo” is somewhat imprecise and loaded term. Is it alright that we describe him as appearing to be incompetent because you didn't see the behaviour you wanted to see?
Q: Sure. I know you know what I mean, but your insistence on wording must have a reason so I'll play.
A: Good, because I chose my words carefully. I picked “appearing”, “incompetent”, “behaviour”, and “you”. First of all, I do sincerely appreciate that your boss in your example did appear to be incompetent to you. We've all experienced someone doing something that looked strange, unreasonable, unproductive right through to downright ugly.
Now in this scenario, You are seeing Behaviour that Appears Incompetent. To sort this out it would be ideal to know if it is only You (or everyone?), that sees Behaviour (consistently based on values and intent?) that Appears (or truly is according to the organization?) Incompetent (or just unexpected or unacceptable to you?).
Q: Jeez, you are picky. But I do get the point – there are a lot of variables at play.
A: Exactly, and you can see that we have just identified a few. Let's agree that a reasonable employee, such as yourself, thinks your manager is useless (another very precise term. :) )
If we look at those situations, in an organization, logically and objectively we can determine that a) this manager's boss is blind or unresponsive to this person's apparent incompetent behaviour, or that b) the manager's boss believes, or at some time believed, this person to be worth keeping in the company's employ.
Another possibility is that the boss herself is having a moment of temporary insanity, or has just used up her competence quota; however, either of these can still be covered in a) or b).
Q: Great, so both my manager and his boss are bozos?
A: Yes! - OR - our perception of the situation isn't accurate. Objectively we would both have to agree that it is probably the latter. We may not like what we see but the manager's boss must be OK with things, or if she isn't then hopefully is working to rectify the situation.
Either way, let's be careful we aren't making some bad assumptions. And even if we are correct temporarily, or permanently, let's get some facts before judging.
Q: Fine, I get your point – I shouldn't jump to concussions. So let's talk about the scenario where all my peers agree; that is it's not just my opinion.
A: Good. Do we have facts from anyone out there or is this still a group opinion? And before we argue over what's a fact and what isn't, let's just consider this. If your manager is a problem (we haven't uncovered what this problem is yet) it is his manager who has to get the facts, determine what the problem is and solve it. Ideally, that manager will do a great job and ask for your input.
But that won't be happening if your manager's boss is getting what she wants, no matter what you and I think about the situation.
Q: So we are stuck – that's just dandy!
A: Well, yes we are stuck, but not the way you think. We are stuck with common misconceptions about what “Management” is, and how it works, and where we fit in as employees.
Q: Ouch. That says that my opinion of my bozo boss is a misconception?
A: Not your opinion – that is what it is – but the cause of your opinion. Until we've been a “Manager”, or studied “Management” from those who have, it's really easy to misunderstand. It's just like every other skill or profession: if we aren't a trained pilot we don't know how to fly the plane. We can criticize a bumpy flight, but we can't be certain we could do better.
Q: This sounds like a “walk in the other person's shoes” moral.
Q: So how do we get past that obstacle?
A: Well one way is to start at the beginning of the story and see how we got to situations like you've experienced. Let's do that next week.