I’d like to say that I spend most of my day doing real work. In fact, I’ve expressed that desire before: in reference to how that desire is stymied by the IT department and Microsoft Excel’s regret at my inconvenience.

But that’s not the only obstacle.

Because then there are people. In the following camps:

  1. The Lazy. Who appear to be unmoved by grovelling, begging, demands and threats. They will, occasionally, respond to bribes. But somehow, that once-off bonus turns into the general expectation for any and all future interactions.
  2. The Untroubled-By-Deadlines. Who are committed to their art, and tell you that you’ll get it when you get it, even when you explain the absolute life-or-death urgency of the situation. As you watch them saunter out for lunch at a leisurely pace. And take a full 75 minute hour getting back from it. And then get up from their desk to get more coffee. And stop for a chat with their manager. And you know that it’s about their weekend plans.
  3. The Otherwise-Occupied. Who will get to you in a minute. They just want to finish this small thing. And that email. And make a quick phone call for so-and-so. No – please, stay right where you are. Two minutes. Honestly.
  4. The Woefully-Underskilled. What? Oh, um. Is that in my job description?
  5. The Passively-Put-Upon-And-Don’t-Say-No. Who will accept tasks from anyone and everyone. And then do none of them. At least, not before you end up doing it yourself in exasperation.
  6. The Helter-Skelters. Who try and do everything at once. And either do it really badly, or really slowly, or both.
  7. The Non-Communicative. “Hello. Do you understand what I’m asking you for? HELLO! Yes, YOU. Just a yes or no. Say something. Anything. Still there?”
  8. The Unthinking. For whom everything makes sense even when it really doesn’t. And you get the polite shrug when you point out that just a little forethought would have saved them time, or saved you embarrassment, or whatever.

I, of course, never fall into any of those categories. I’m always a delight to work with. Which is why I feel so self-righteous in my outraged indignation.

Or not.

Confession: there are some people that make me feel ridiculously incompetent. And I’m not talking about superiors – I’m talking about peers. Who are so good at what they do, and do it so seemingly effortlessly, and they do it ahead of time, before I’ve even thought about it, that I end up feeling like being the weakest link.

Fun fact: both of them are now married. To each other.

Lord help their children.

But it did make me realise that being competent is actually a burden. Because even when I try to be better about answering emails and exercising forethought and ignoring the personal life that’s the soundtrack in my head, the point is that it’s usually not sustainable. People are who they are: the naturally-gifted have to deal with the less-naturally-gifted.

And we’re all gifted and less-gifted from someone’s perspective.

So Here Is A Short List Of How Not To React In The Face Thereof

1. “You’re such a useless f**k that I can’t even handle it right now”

I have learned this empirically.

People don’t respond well.

2. “I’ve escalated this issue with your boss”

If you’re going to do it, best you keep your mouth shut. No one likes a rat – even if they agree with you.

3. “As I’ve said time and again…”

Now you’re just whining. Say it once, discreetly, to the right person. This makes you a shrewd and professional judge of character.

If such a right person does not exist, suck it up or leave.

4. “Here, let me help you with that”

Are you trying to cover up for them? If you’re volunteering to take on both their role and yours, then you are about to become incompetent.

This is my final thought: thank GOD for incompetent people. Because they allow you to look good when you have your stuff in order. Even if it’s only mildly in order.

Provided, of course, that you don’t go all bat-crazy when the incompetence riles…