My Level of Incompetence. in New Beginnings

  • July 1, 2020, 12:19 a.m.
  • |
  • Public

One of the few bits of education I remember from my sociology class during my first year of college was something called the level of incompetence. The alleged phenomena can be described as follows: Imagine you start a job at a large corporation. If you do well in that position, you’ll eventually get promoted to a higher one. If you do a good job there, you’ll eventually get promoted again. The process repeats until you get to the level where you’re no longer performing as well as you were in the past, and the promotions stop. Not only do the promotions stop, but when the time comes for firings and layoffs, you’ll likely be among those terminated because of how your lackluster your performance has eventually become, and someone below your level who has yet to reach his or her own competence ceiling will take your place because that person holds more promise. Very likely, you’ll find a comparable job elsewhere, and the process will repeat itself.

That’s what feels to have happened at my previous job. I think I was serviceable in my starting position, but when I was promoted to senior accountant, I just couldn’t hack it. Maybe I could have if they had provided better training, or my eventual supervisor had more points in the communication branch of his skill tree. Maybe if I hadn’t been exhausted by my dad, I would have had more energy to adapt. Nonetheless, I found my level of incompetence, and I was ultimately relieved of my employment status.

I’m afraid history is about to repeat itself. The accounting program consisted of two full time faculty: myself and the program chair, Lesley. Lesley has left for position at another school. That schools will let her take summers off, so I can’t exactly fault her. She’ll still teach this college, but as an adjunct. Since I had done such a commendable performance in my two years here, everyone (including the Dean and Lesley) suggested (or insisted) I apply. I couldn’t very well refuse, so I had my interview last week. I think I did all right. I at least did as well as I did on my initial interview, but there are no other candidates, so unless I screwed the pooch, I’ll most likely get the job.

I’m dreading it, to be honest. I keep having flashbacks from IMERYS, all those wasted hours where I did nothing because I had no idea how to complete an assignment and no one to ask for help. If Lesley is still teaching here as an adjunct, I’ll at least have her as a resource, by the feeling of dread remains.

At least it’s more money. Georgia has a policy that the salaries and wages of all state employees are public records and can be observed at the Georgia Department of Accounts and Audits website. I looked up both my salary and Lesley’s. My salary was listed at about $7k less than it actually is. Perhaps that amount is my net pay after FICA, benefits, and state taxes, but before federal withholdings. Regardless, I’m presuming Lesley’s salary was similarly understated. That means, that I should (hopefully) get a $10k raise. In fact, her benefits are almost certainly more costly than mine since she’s married with a child, so maybe I’ll get a little more. It also comes with a corner office. My office is an interior one with no window; however, my desk faces the door, so no one ever sneaks up on me. I kind of want to keep my current office.

I video chatted with Gaby last night. She was having trouble with an assignment in Lesley’s class, and Lesley apparently isn’t very responsive to requests for assistance. All classes are currently conducted via an online format, so there are no opportunities for her to actually ask Lesley for help in person, so she reached out to me. I happily obliged spent about an hour yesterday evening walking her through what was vexing her. Doing so was technically difficult because there was always some sort of feedback from her audio. When we ended, it felt like we had some moment. Maybe I’m imagining it, but as we were saying our goodbyes, there was something almost longing in her tone and face. I told her if she needed more help, we could video chat again, or meet in person at the county library, which has study rooms. She said she may have to take me up on that offer. I really hope I’m imagining it. I probably am. She’ll graduate next semester, go off elsewhere into the world, and this crush will become a memory. Per our previous conversation, she really wants to try my slutty cheesecake bars. If she asks to meet off campus, I can’t not bake her those bars.

I’ve also have an MRI scheduled for tomorrow evening. A little over a year ago, I was doing body weight squats, when my right knee suddenly went “Pop!” and the back of the joint began to swell. A few weeks after that, I was doing some yard when the inside of that same knee suddenly went “Thwang!” and it’s been hurting ever since. Some days it feels fine, other not so much. I went to see an orthopedic specialist last week, who scheduled this MRI. What are the chances that the fix will be cheap, easy, and involve a quick recovery?


Marg July 01, 2020

Congratulations on the promotion - I hope your future fears are unfounded! I’m a little confused about this level of incompetence thing because this doesn’t happen to everyone but it sounded like this guy thought it did? What about all the people who do an excellent job and are satisfied until they retire whatever level they’re at? Although I do agree that often folk are promoted and are then not given adequate training or support to do their job well.

Robbo Marg ⋅ July 02, 2020

It's also called the Peter Principle. I suppose there certainly are people who do excellent work in their positions until they retire. I hope this new role is such a position for me.

Marg Robbo ⋅ July 02, 2020

Fingers crossed🤞

Small Town Girl July 02, 2020

Congrats on the promotion! That is exciting news!!

Robbo Small Town Girl ⋅ July 02, 2020

It's not official, yet. If I got it, hopefully they tell me so I the chair's inbox doesn't pile up too much before I take the role. I really hope it doesn't undo me.

Star Maiden July 02, 2020

If you don't think you can do it, I would recommend not accepting it if offered. You could always say everything you said here. Or, you could take it, and if you don't feel successful, you could always ask to move back to your current job. I have seen people do this. They are the smart ones.

Robbo Star Maiden ⋅ July 03, 2020

The thing is, I don't think I have a good reason to decline it. Telling them everything I expressed in this entry might come across as cowardly at best or lazy and unmotivated at worst. Even if I were to turn it down, I'd have to fill in for the former program chair until another suitable replacement is found. That could take months, maybe even a year. If I have to do it, I might as well get the pay bump.

Secondly, as awful as the following sounds, the Marketing Program Chair's office is across the hall from mine, and she's constantly asking me for guidance on doing some of the most basic things, whether it's basic math for calculating hours of class time each semester, formatting a Microsoft Word wile, or using Blackboard. Maybe the job is very tough and she only needs help with those basic things because all the real estate in her brain is occupied by Program Chair responsibilities, but the part of me with a sliver of confidence thinks, "if she can do it, I have to be able to handle it."

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