I had a depressing encounter the other day. After working a short time with an organization, it became pretty obvious that their inside public relations person was a disaster. She’d been at the organization a long time and had strong relationships with various leaders. She seemed decent enough with one exception: She was terrible at her job. I mean really terrible. Honestly, I asked a number of people she worked with, and not a single person could tell me anything she’d actually accomplished in the past few years. No PR strategy, no press releases, no social media campaigns, no media connections, nothing. So I asked the next obvious question: “Why doesn’t she get fired?”
That’s when everybody got quiet and backed away. Essentially they each agreed she was a disaster, but nobody in the organization wanted to take on that fight. Apparently, she had too many connections and relationships inside the company.
Two words: “entrenched incompetence.” This is when an obviously incompetent person continues at their job, because no one has the guts to force him or her out. So what, you ask? Who cares? Let them keep their job. Here’s why it’s a huge mistake:
1) They’re paralyzing the organization. In this case, the company desperately needed some positive PR, but they weren’t getting it. It was a critical time to be telling their story, but she was dropping the ball, losing millions of dollars in potential income.
2) It creates bitterness among other employees. Trust me – every employee at this organization realized she was a failure. They knew she was an obstacle, and they blamed leadership.
3) It devalues loyalty. Other employees looked at her and realized being good at their job didn’t matter nearly as much as sucking up. It was a terrible example of what excellence should look like.
Any organization that’s created an environment where incompetence becomes entrenched, and perhaps worse – where no one feels empowered to make a change – is a sad testimony to poor leadership.
Have you ever been involved in an organization with entrenched incompetence?