One Gaffe at a Time – Step 5

Step 5: Admitted to senior management, to HR, and to all fellow employees the exact nature of their wrongs.

My Incompetence Anonymous (IA) recovery process is taking too dam long. The initial plan was to whip through two or three steps a week, declare myself cured, and start a speaking tour. Six months later and I am still working on Step 5 without a book deal in sight. There has to be a better way.

I am doing everything I am supposed to do, hell, I even took the geographical cure. For the uninitiated, a geographical cure involves moving to a new city, town, country, or hemisphere with the promise of a fresh start free of incompetence. In my case, I didn’t technically move but simply stopped travelling to work. By not going to work, I eliminated exposure to the clear majority of incompetence in my life.

I did, however, find completing the resentments inventory rather easy. I mean, how difficult is it to list all of the people, places, and things from your past that did not live up to your expectations or treat you as expected. Hell, I have been developing that list for years. I have always been ready to remove all defective characters standing in my way and can honestly say that I don’t hold resentments to any of those assholes I used to work for.

Keep in mind that Step 5 may be the last chance you get to impress your peers with all of the crazy stuff you did when you were an active incompetent. Agreeing to go to a few meetings may be worth the price of a free pass for all of that shit you got away with as a practicing incompetent. It’s like being assigned “special projects” status at work. Everyone knows you messed up, but your friends in power keep you on the payroll anyway.

Sure, it can be tough sharing a moral inventory with another human being, especially when they start crying after meticulously listing their deficiencies. I even had someone take a swing at me for telling them what their spouse was really up to on meeting nights. Apparently, their spouse fell for an initiation prank dealing with the need to give it away in order to keep it, but hey, I almost fell for that one myself.

Still, I need to find a more efficient way to finish up these steps. Perhaps I will take the advice of an AA friend who found themselves in a similar situation. They declared themselves agnostic and stated that any AA step concerning a higher power was not applicable to their individualized recovery and eliminated seven of AA’s twelve steps. I wonder how many IA steps I can eliminate if I declare myself competent?

Ok, perhaps, maybe, I could be missing the point of Step 5.  After all, we are not cured of incompetence. What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our competent condition. I will continue to keep coming back one gaffe at a time.

Dr. StrangeJob

Future columns will discuss my continued journey through the IA recovery process. Until then, feel free to view the inaugural IA meeting, learn about Incompetents Anonymous, read the Audacity Prayer and 12+1 Steps, or become familiar with IA’s additional support groups.

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One Gaffe at a Time – Step 4

Step 4: Made a directive that all minions turn their will and lives over to management care. 

My sponsor, Donald D., is pleased with my 12+1 Step progress and was particularly delighted with the reversal of character and wordy transformations pondered during Step 3 of my recovery. Unfortunately, Step 4 may be a tougher challenge, especially considering Step 4 may require competent minions to turn their will and lives over to incompetent managers.

The Peter Principle states that all employees in a hierarchy tend to rise to their level of incompetence. Hence, the higher up the corporate ladder you look, the more likely to find incompetent managers. I refer to this as Ladder Fatigue: the further up an organisational ladder a competent employee climbs, multiplied by the length of time in the senior position, the less likely the individual will remain competent. Although a functional addict can still be a competent worker, the concept of a “functional incompetent” is an oxymoron. Would it be oxymoronic to expect a competent minion to turn their will and life over to an incompetent supervisor?

Step 4 inspired Dr. StrangeJob’s theory of osmosis-moronus—the process of becoming a moron through assimilation. Osmosis-moronus has proven a key factor in the proliferation of incompetent bureaucracies. The adage that one rotten apple can ruin the whole bushel is scientifically proven. Speaking of oxymora, it is my unbiased opinion that the common abnormality with the systematic chaos involving civil servants has brought me to the partial conclusion that I am absolutely unsure how we got into this fine mess. But it does explain absent minded career politicians that are clearly confused and deafeningly silent when discussing corporate ethics. Need I say more?

For every yin there is a yang, and for every incompetent manager, there is a competent employee just waiting to be found. Competence, although rare, can have a positive effect on an incompetent environment, a process the Doctor refers to as reverse-osmosis-moronus. Fortunately, working the Steps of IA may thwart osmosis-moronus as you search for the ultimate higher power of true competence. Step 4 provides hope and a mission to expel incompetence, to seek out the competent, and to boldly go where senior managers have rarely gone before. Join the search for the Competence of your understanding, but be forewarned, we are never truly cured of incompetence. What we have is a daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of our competent condition.

Step 4 may sound a bit preachy, but then again, I should never generalise. It may be my least favourite step but it is not a real phony. It is a sure bet or definite maybe that it could be a deliberate mistake or planned serendipity that this bittersweet post makes an honest liar of me. Or maybe I am just being oxy-moronic.  

Future columns will discuss my continued journey through the IA recovery process. Until then, feel free to view the inaugural IA meeting, learn about Incompetents Anonymous, read the Audacity Prayer and 12+1 Steps, or become familiar with IA’s additional support groups.

Dr. StrangeJob

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One Gaffe at a Time – Step 3

Step 3: Made a directive that all minions turn their will and lives over to management care. 

Full disclosure: I might have gotten this one backwards.

In our previous discussion on Step 2, we peered up the corporate ladder and unwittingly came to believe that senior management, thinking greater of themselves, could restore the hierarchy to complacency. In Step 3, our focus remains on senior management, but this time we discuss how that group view those working below them on the corporate ladder.

The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Step 3 reads: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. Unlike AA, the Incompetents Anonymous (IA) version of Step 3 is not about finding God, but rather about finding yourself working for someone with a God Complex. I have had my share of decent bosses, but I have also worked for a few assholes. You know the kind, the autocratic and controlling type of boss that demands blind allegiance from staff. You are not considered a colleague, partner, or co-worker. You are merely an underling to be exploited, used, or abused.

Similar to AA, an IA member may pray to God, but they are likely praying to God for their God Complex boss to stop preying on them. In fact, the IA understanding of a God Complex boss is a boss that has a backwards view of their own managerial worth. It is no coincidence that God spelled backwards is dog. That is why a boss with a God Complex is always barking up the wrong tree.

If God is a semordnilap (a word that spells another word in reverse or palindromes spelled backwards), then there may be other clues to suggest that a boss with a God Complex sees things from the wrong perspective. Your boss, for example, may think he is a star, but perhaps they are all rats in disguise. They treat minions like pupils and are just waiting for them to slipup. Some bosses say they just want to be our pals, but they are actually trying to slap us down. You just want to live, and they just want to be evil. You say that you lived for God, but perhaps you are just working for the devil dog.

OK, I give up on this one. I was hoping to deliver a positive step but now fear that I will be reviled instead.

So, if you are working for someone with a God Complex, then all I can offer you is sympathy and a piece of advice. You may be tired of getting crapped on, but as the old saying goes—if it is on the wheel then it will eventually come around. Instead of getting stressed, let’s just hope those bosses get their just desserts. Smile, be patient, and remember that diaper is repaid spelled backwards. Incidentally, Step 3 is where the idea for the  DIAPER Awards 2017 came from.

Future columns will discuss my journey through the IA recovery process. Until then, feel free to view the inaugural IA meeting, learn about Incompetents Anonymous, read the Audacity Prayer and 12+1 Steps, or become familiar with IA’s additional support groups.

Dr. StrangeJob

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One Gaffe at a Time – Step 2

Step 2: Came to believe that senior management, thinking greater of themselves, could restore the hierarchy to complacency.

I have been trying to get through the 13 Steps of Incompetents Anonymous (IA) as quickly as possible, but my previous three sponsors kept telling me to slow down. Fortunately, I just found an online IA sponsor that believes I will be ready to start Step 2 as soon as my check clears. I also hope I can use his digital signature to verify attendance at court-ordered recovery meetings. Does anyone know if one-on-one texting sessions can be substituted for group sharing sessions?

Step 2 is one of the easier steps for a recovering incompetent to complete. With Step 2, we are not searching internally for personal recovery, but rather focusing our attention on senior management and their inability to restore malfunctioning hierarchies to some semblance of competence. As discussed in the brown-nose nose-diving effect, there is an inevitable downward spiral of incompetence permeating the upper echelons of many of the world’s corporate ladders. Also, keep in mind that Step 2 refers to your existing management’s ability to restore the hierarchy to complacency. In other words, we are asking if current management, (i.e. the very same group that caused or allowed the mess to happen in the first place), has the ability to bring a semblance of competence back to the organisation.

Bottom line – If you are waiting for senior management to circumvent corporate calamity, then don’t hold your breath. I should know because I am a survivor of corporate mayhem and have the employment insurance claims and layoff notices to prove it.

The process of bureaucratic recovery generally starts when a newly appointed senior manager proclaims the need to think outside of the box or warns of the need to make tough decisions. These pronouncements are followed by a series of focus groups, external consultations, rebranding, reorganisations, and all kinds of money and time wasting activities. The process ends with huge fanfare and the release of the updated organisational chart that was pre-approved by senior management prior to the start of the corporate review.

Although the above may sound like a “glass half empty” view of corporate efficiencies, I should note that sometimes things can accidently work out for the better. The “glass half full” scenario does not require direct intervention from senior management but may involve sheer luck, legal interventions, management bonuses, senior level severance packages, or external auditors.

I implore you to be vigilant in pursuing Step 2, watch for the warning signs, and stay clear of the layoff zone. If management even hints at the need to think outside of the box, then they are looking for someone to blame. If they suggest a willingness to make tough decisions, then they are looking for someone to fire. If they claim to be working in the best interest of the company, then they are about to give those that question their authority a layoff notice, those that support them a promotion, and themselves a bonus.

Damn. I just lost another sponsor. Turns out what I thought was an online IA support group was actually a robotic Artificial Intelligence (AI) self-help website. That explains my sponsor’s weird voice. My first hint was when I tried to prepay for my Step 13 session and noticed that the site only supported 12 steps. What would IA recovery be without Step 13?

Step 13: If you have sincerely worked through the preceding 12 steps and still remain incompetent, then you are basically screwed. Your only recourse will be to follow the advice of Dr. Wilbur Swain (Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) – “Why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?”

Future columns will discuss my journey through the IA recovery process. Until then, feel free to view the inaugural IA meeting, learn about Incompetent Anonymous, read the Audacity Prayer and 12+1 Steps, or become familiar with IA’s additional support groups.

Dr. StrangeJob

The Audacity Prayer: Grant me the authority to eliminate those that will not follow, the ability to terrorise those that remain, and the audacity not to care about the difference.

 IA Final Logo A

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One Gaffe at a Time – Step 1

Welcome to the first in a series of posts following my journey through the Incompetents Anonymous (IA) recovery process in my quest for competence, spirited enlightenment, and workplace sanity. Let’s start at the bottom.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over incompetence – that our hierarchy had become uncontrollable.

It is a truly spiritual moment when you realise that your work environment is beyond your control and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Congratulations, this is the start of your recovery. Once you take this step then your future path becomes clear. If you are being thrown out of town, then get in front and make it look like a parade in your honour.

I have hit IA rock bottom more than once and at least once in every organisation that I have worked. My most vivid plunge into the void of incompetence took place during an initial meeting with a new supervisor. Did you ever find yourself on the wrong side of a burnt bridge with a boss that obviously didn’t want you to be working for them?  Sometimes you just need to suck it up and move forward, but this time it was clear that my only path forward was out the door. That’s office politics for you, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. At least I was given three month’s notice, but it was perhaps overkill to make those three months the most demeaning of my entire work career.

Then there was the time the first words a new supervisor said to me were: “I bet you’re sorry you complained about me now.”  I wasn’t sorry that I complained about them, but I soon became very sorry that they were told that I complained about them.

How about the time I took a year leave to complete my doctorate and my dissertation advisor dropped me? I managed to find another advisor and complete my degree but was laid-off from my teaching position a week after my dissertation defense. The only thing worse than an academic out of touch with reality is an academic wannabe out of touch with reality.

OUCH! I was just talking to my IA sponsor, and they tell me that I obviously need more work on this step. Apparently, I should be focusing on personal recovery rather than blaming others. Something about there being no “I” in team and that pointing a finger at someone leaves three fingers pointing back at yourself.

OK, I admit it. There is no “I” in team, but you can find a “’me” and an “eat” in there if you look hard enough. True, if you point your finger at someone there are still three pointing back, but if you use your middle index finger pointed in an upward direction, then the message is more clearly received.

I think I must be cured because my sponsor just told me that I should go directly to Step 13.

Dr. StrangeJob

The Audacity Prayer: Grant me the authority to eliminate those that will not follow, the ability to terrorise those that remain, and the audacity not to care about the difference.

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Incompetents Anonymous – One Gaffe at a Time

Audacity Prayer: Grant me the authority to eliminate those that will not follow, the ability to terrorize those that remain, and the audacity not to care about the difference.

Hello, my name is Dr StrangeJob, a recovering incompetent and founding member of Incompetents Anonymous (IA). My recent defeat in a local mayoralty election forced me to hit rock bottom. I admit that I am powerless over incompetence and that my election campaign was unmanageable, but I have a selfish desire to overcome my incompetence in time for the 2020 municipal elections. Future columns will discuss my personal journey through the IA recovery process as I search for competence, spiritual enlightenment, and heavily sponsored campaign ads, but first, some background on IA.

IA is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from incompetence. The only requirement for IA membership is a desire to stop being incompetent.

The IA movement borrows heavily from the traditional 12 step recovery process, while taking into account the unique issues surrounding the recovery needs of incompetents. The Audacity Prayer, for example, is to Incompetents Anonymous what the Serenity Prayer is to Alcoholics Anonymous. The IA triangle also borrows from the traditional Alcoholics Anonymous triangle, but rather than emphasise AA’s three-part solution to addiction (unity, recovery, and service), the IA triangle reflects the three key personality traits most often associated with an incompetent’s mindset (denial, immunity, and self-service).

These unique characteristics of incompetents, as compared to addicts, inspired the IA movement:

  1. Addicts must hit a personal “rock bottom” before authentic recovery can begin. For addicts, this bottom is often very traumatic and obvious. Incompetents tend to hold senior positions in a hierarchy and are often oblivious to the ills of their own incompetence. An oblivious incompetent is, oviously, a more difficult nut to crack.
  2. Traditional recovery programs emphasise the anonymous aspect of the process. Incompetents are not anonymous to anyone other than themselves.
  3. A functional addict can still be a competent worker, but the concept of a “functional incompetent” is an oxymoron.
  4. Challenges inherent in dealing with incompetents has necessitated the inclusion of an additional step in the IA recovery process. The added step makes IA the word’s first 12 +1 step self-help recovery program.

Like an addict, a single incompetent can have a devastating effect on friends and family, not to mention a demoralising effect on an entire organisation. Fortunately, IA has developed its own family of support groups. Similar to Al-Anon, IA-Anon supports anyone whose life is affected by someone else’s incompetence. Ala-Tweet, not to be confused with Alateen, is an online version of IA-Anon designed for the younger tech savvy sufferer.

IA also envisioned the need for institutional and work related support groups. The adage that your workplace can “drive you to drink” receives its own support group in ACOI (Alcoholic Colleagues of Incompetents). Although there is apparent overlap, ACOI should not be confused with either ACA (ACoA) or ACOA. Lastly, IAA (Incompetent Arsehole Anonymous) addresses the dual infliction of incompetence combined with an extreme personality disorder associated with many of our senior IA members. IAA is proving popular with existing members working in the political arena and is expected to become the flagship program for IA.

Please join me in future columns as I struggle through the IA recovery process—one gaffe at a time.

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 Twelve +1 Steps of Incompetents Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over incompetence – that our hierarchy had become uncontrollable.
  2. Came to believe that senior management, thinking greater of themselves, could restore the hierarchy to complacency.
  3. Made a directive that all minions turn their will and lives over to management care.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our minions.
  5. Admitted to senior management, to HR, and to all fellow employees the exact nature of their wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to remove all defective characters in our way.
  7. Condescendingly demanded minions to remove their inadequacies.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to downsize them all.
  9. Make direct attacks on all who threaten us whenever possible, except when to do so could hurt us or our inner circle.
  10. Continue to take personnel inventory and when they are wrong promptly admit it.
  11. Sought through fear and intimidation to enforce our will on all minions, paying only for the knowledge necessary to increase personal power or the authority to carry that out.
  12. Having had a superiority complex as a result of these steps, we continue to carry the message of inferiority to our minions and to practice these principles in all extramarital affairs.
  13. If you have sincerely worked through the preceding 12 steps and still remain incompetent, then you are basically screwed. Your only recourse will be to follow the advice of Dr Wilbur Swain (Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.) – “Why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don’t you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?”

Dr. StrangeJob

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