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The Most Incompetent Manager I Ever Worked For

August 28, 2017

Incompetence: Failing to achieve the results you desire

Gross Incompetence: Achieving the opposite of your desired results

He wasn’t even a jerk. He was a fairly nice guy. He took his team to lunch once a month and paid for it out of his own pocket. He took the team out for people’s birthdays. He scheduled occasional “moral” events at places like Top Golf, or the local movieplex. The problem was that he was really, really bad at his job. His job was managing a group of highly experienced IT professionals. And he wasn’t very good at it.

Some other time, I might go into why I thought he was so bad, but today I just want to give one example. I’m not even sure if it’s the worst example.

There is a company called VitalSmarts. They publish a series of business books and trainings. (I reviewed their books Crucial Conversations and Influencer.) As you can see if you read the reviews, I really like their content. It just so happens that VitalSmarts is based in Provo, UT. That’s just down the road from my house in Pleasant Grove, UT. I learned about their products before I realized they were a local company. In fact, a good friend from my neighborhood works as a sales manager for VitalSmarts. He approached me about some training.

Rodney, we have a new trainer who needs to certify. We’re offering a “friends and family” class for Crucial Conversations. If you would like I can get you a seat.

Sure. I appreciate it. How much would it be?

Well, the class is normally $1500 for the two days, but since it’s a friends and family class, there’s no charge.

This seemed too good to be true. Training for a book that I already liked and it was free? Sign me up. All I needed to do was get the time off at work.

You should know that I had a very demanding job. I was essentially on call 24×7. It was not unusual to get a call in the middle of the day or night informing me that a system was broken and I needed to drop everything and work to get it back on up and running. My manager Alex, was my designated backup.

Alex, have you ever heard of Crucial Conversations training?

No. What is it?

It’s a training class that teaches you how to communicate in high pressure situations. Anyway, I wanted to attend a Crucial Conversations training class next Thursday and Friday.

Okay. . . .

I’ve ended up working every Saturday for the past month and I’ll be onsite over this coming weekend. Any chance I could take those days as training days?

We only provide training days for PMP training.

Just thought I’d ask. What about taking comp time?

We don’t really do comp time.

Okay, how about I just take a couple of personal days?

Well, we’ll have new hires on site doing training those days that I need to train, and I don’t really feel like I could properly back you up.

Okay, tell you what, how about I take personal days and if an issue comes up I’ll just step out of class and deal with it?

I’m not sure I could ask you to potentially work on a personal day.

Are you saying that if I request those days off, you will deny that request?

Yeah, I’m afraid I’d have to.

As a salaried employee, I didn’t have to request time off. I was only required to inform management if I took time off. And Alex seemed completely oblivious to the fact that since I was on call 24×7, I potentially worked every weekend. And we since didn’t have a comp time policy so I just ate those hours.

It wasn’t lost on me that I could have skipped the entire conversation, gotten “sick” for those days and been able to attend my $1500 two-day training class.

I had never seen someone not only refuse to provide training, but then actively sabotage training that an employee wanted to go and get on his own dime and his own time. But, if you had asked him, he would say that “training is very important to us.” Even now, years later, I still just shake my head at the gross incompetence of that decision.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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