Gross Incompetence

As the executive director of a small professional association, one of my duties is collecting registration fees for folks to attend our conference. It’s an easy task. I send out registration information, people send me checks, which I then deposit into our bank account. Simple.

Our members are all very responsible. Given that a focus of our association is financial management education, as a group they also tend to be…well…a little cheap. That’s good for me because 99 percent take advantage of the early bird discount.

Nearly all of our members are faculty, field staff, or graduate students connected with major universities here in the U.S. A tiny percentage–two people–work for a federal government agency that shall remain nameless. They, too, are very responsible people.

Their business office, however, is staffed with a bunch of women who have worked in the same job since Roosevelt was president. I’m guessing they know their job backwards and forwards. The problem is they long ago quit caring about doing a good job.

The members who work with this agency told me months before the conference that payment would be processed more rapidly if our organization had a DUNS number. I spent three hours one morning completing the online form. More than three-fourths of the requested information didn’t apply to our association, but leaving items blank wasn’t allowed. Talk about frustrating…

Three months before the conference, I received a call from the business office of this federal agency. Could I accept a credit card? No. Would I accept a purchase order? No. It’s just me–I’m not set up to handle anything but checks.

Two weeks later, I received a purchase order in the mail. Rather than fighting with a woman I’d already figured out was a bumbling idiot, I had my secretary create an invoice. We faxed it back the same day.

When the conference started, payment still hadn’t arrived. Knowing the employees of this agency weren’t at fault, I let them attend. Allowing folks who haven’t already paid registrations to attend is unprecedented.  But you know me, always the nice guy.

Following the conference, I emailed the two employees of this agency who attended the conference to let them know I still hadn’t received payment. They followed up with Ms. Incompetent and emailed me back that payment was forthcoming.

That was three weeks ago. I still haven’t received payment. But today I got an email from Ms. Incompetent telling me I needed to contact her. Huh? Doesn’t your damn phone work? Then I realized it had probably been cut off for failure to pay the bill.

So I called. Got voicemail. Instead of leaving a message I’d probably regret, I hung up. Then I sent her an email indicating that I needed a check with the amount and the mailing address along with my phone number and a request to call me if she had any questions.

Then I forwarded Ms. Incompetent’s email to the two members who work at this agency with a note saying I was frustrated.  I pointed out that if I had this much trouble with every registration, we’d have to close up shop. I then informed them that for the next conference, they needed to pay in advance with a personal check. Let them fight with the bitch for payment.

One of them called me back about an hour later. She let me know that she, the other member, the head of their agency, and another woman from the business office (apparently Ms. Incompetent’s flunky) had met to discuss the problem. The bottom line is that I’m going to have to wait because Ms. Incompetent does whatever she wants.

Seriously? They explained that she should have been fired years ago, but nobody ever challenges her or takes disciplinary action against her because they’re afraid she’ll sue. Nice work if you can get it.

You need only read my last post to know how I’d handle this situation. Ms. Incompetent would get written up, and if she failed to change her ways, she’d be looking for another job. It’s that simple.

Incompetence thrives because mealy-mouthed spineless supervisors don’t do their job. Being a manager is not about being popular with employees. It’s about making sure they do what they’re supposed to do. And as long as shortcomings are documented, the incompetent employee has no chance of success with a lawsuit.

Yes, documenting problems is a long and painful process. That’s why managers get paid the big bucks. And perhaps if they had to fire a few people, they’d be more careful about who they hired in the first place. That’s why I can’t find anybody to do the cleaning for me here in…

My Glass House

2 responses to “Gross Incompetence”

  1. My office will let someone screw up forever. To try to avoid firing someone, they will change their job or cut their pay in hopes that the idiot will quit. Passive aggressive management tactics do not work, either.