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May 20th, 2010

I try to head on over to thedailywtf.com whenever time permits, having found it to be an invaluable resource in teaching by counterexample.  The articles, while sometimes painfully soul-crushing to read, can implant cautionary tales into the heads of developers who find they may be starting a journey down a WTF-y path.

But the articles at the The Daily WTF also highlight a problematic aspect of professional life: some how, some way, incompetent people work their way into key positions.  How they manage to get into these positions is not of key importance right now (although it would be good for a future post).  No, what I’m wondering, at the moment, is how to deal with incompetent people when you find you need to deal with them.

It’s a fairly complex question, I believe… lot’s of in’s… lot’s of out’s… some what have you’s.  There are psychological aspects to consider.  Do they inspire a dissonance within you that can only be described as mind-shattering?  There are issues of personal reputation and interpersonal dynamics at play, as well.  Do they incite a blind fury deep in your core at having to protect yourself from being associated with their sub-elemental understanding of their claimed expertise?  Are they, god forbid, in a position of power over you?

Perhaps there are productive ways to traverse these workplace hazards.

function encounterIncompetentPerson(event)
	self.patience -= self.senseOfMoralJustness * event.person.responsibility;

	if (self.patience < 0)
		// Murder, self-lobotomize... whatever gets them out of your memory.

Initially, the prescribe encounterIncompetentPerson() method was much less elegant, but I realized things pretty much boil down to ones sense of moral justice and the extent of his or her patience. So if you wish to avoid more drastic means of dealing with incompetence, you’ll either have to lower your sense of moral justice (and presumably your own integrity) or Jesus out your patience. Alternatively, you could try to reduce the responsibility of said person, but that’s whole other subroutine…


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