Competentism

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the rest of the professional world shares the view of work smarter not harder, or at least this mentality is not a widely rewarded (read compensated) one. My dad’s motto is “make things work better.” However, he and I have both had to figure out that sometimes people don’t want help or to hear from others how they might be able to make something happen in a more effective manner. Although I “get” this, it still seems like pure madness. I most certainly would want someone to share with me the best way of going about something. Why would I want to struggle along and continue to make things quite difficult for myself?! Especially if learning this new skill might allow one to improve other areas of their life. Arrogant, entitled, narcissistic, skilled, competent, bright, smart, organized, motivated. These are all adjectives that I’ve been described with—all being used to describe the same skill set. So what’s the deal? The skill that is usually being described is my excellent ability to help others identify and remove barriers that prevent them from reaching their goals. ( <– I asked my co-worker to craft this sentence so that it was an accurate and unbiased reflection.) Alas, this skill allows me to heed my own advice, and thus practice it through my daily routine. I remove barriers and accomplish my goals. Some take longer than others (like this whole debt thing), but eventually I can make it happen in an efficient and relatively painless manner.

Coming back to my main point, there appears to be a subtle form of discrimination when it comes to ability and competence—competentism (yes I just made this term). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states “The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.” They outline the different types of discrimination by type (age, disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex, & sexual harassment) but this extensive list doesn’t really capture the whole picture. Take reverse ageism for example. Ashley states;

“So what does reverse ageism look like? Well that is probably different for everyone, but for me it typically involves being the catch-all for everything technology related yet being overlooked when it comes to other aspects of my job. You see, another stereotype of our generation is that we know a lot about technology…and that one is pretty universally true. We grew up with computers, iPods, text messaging and the internet. We don’t use the instruction manuals on our new electronics. We turn them on and teach ourselves. So when our employer switches our e- mail system to Outlook, or purchases a new web-based database to track customers, we adapt. And quicker than our older coworkers, it seems. Because of this uncanny ability to learn new technologies, we are often taken advantage of. We are the first (and sometimes only) people to learn how to do something so we are forever the “experts” on the subject. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to help. I will even teach someone how to do something if they are willing to learn. What I won’t do is their job for them every time they need to utilize this new technology but don’t know how. All too often our generation is expected to do this because we are the resident “technology gurus,” but when it comes to other areas of expertise, we are dismissed as young, naïve, or inexperienced.” (Read more at http://entrylevelobservations.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/reverse-ageism/)

Similar to reverse ageism (which definitely occurs), competentism is the act of assigning additional tasks, increasing workload, requiring a person to remain present for a full 8-hour work day etc., in spite (term used deliberately) of the fact that the employee has already finished their original job tasks (and probably some others as well) in an efficient and timely manner. Now, I’m not suggesting that a person do the bare minimum and just slide by in life or in the workplace, but I do think they should be compensated for their abilities accordingly. Let’s say it takes Jane Doe 1 hour to complete a task, and their co-worker 2 hours. Jane Doe should be able to complete the task and then leave early (and dare I say be praised) right? Wrong. Instead, she hears “you’re entitled, you really should help so and so finish,” or “well, can you work on this since you have extra time?” This is discrimination for competency. This culture promotes laziness and rewards a stagnant work environment.

Like Ashley said, I’m happy to help, and I’m willing to teach others these skills, but please don’t call me entitled when I ask for a little compensation here and there.

*Disclaimer-These are just thoughts that I’ve had over the years, which are only meant to be a commentary on general workplace cultures I’ve encountered, not a specific reflection on my current job (which I love 😉 )

2 responses to “Competentism

  1. Margaret Scott

    It’s true that the technological expertise should be valued as much as the wisdom and experience that can come with age.

    People who are competent will always be expected to do the lion’s share of the work – there are not enough competent people to go around!

  2. Useful info. Lucky me I discovered your website by accident, and I’m surprised why this twist of fate didn’t came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *