Brilliant article (registration required) about the art of feigned incompetence. I particularly like that the money quote is from an HR Exec. He fights the battle against HR being the “dumping ground of all unwanted tasks”. It particularly tickles me because early on in my HR Career (Director of HR & Benefits for a Fortune 500 Co.) I organized the company picnic with great enthusiasm and vigor!
To learn something at the office can be difficult. But to refrain from learning something requires years of practice and refinement.It’s an office skill that Steven Crawley finds indispensable. “The inability to grasp selective things can be very helpful in keeping your desk clear of unwanted clutter,” says the executive in HR, or what he calls “the dumping ground” of all unwanted office tasks. “I have developed a very agile selective memory across a wide range of nonvalue-added activities.”
The most memorable time he brandished his nonskill was when the president at an automotive-parts manufacturer asked Mr. Crawley to organize the company picnic. With a sensibility more dry than bubbly, he wasn’t crazy about party planning. So he began to milk his lack of picnic knowledge for all it wasn’t worth. He responded to any inquiries or suggestions with questions and comments such as “How do you do that?” or “What did you guys do in the past?” or even “Help me remember why we’re talking about this.”
Ultimately, responsibility for the picnic was reassigned. Mission unaccomplished. Says Mr. Crawley: “You’d be amazed at how much I don’t know about picnics.”
Ask yourself this HR People. What is the chance that Finance or Sales would agree to organize the company picnic?