Never trust anyone who tells you that they know what they’re doing, particularly if they are vying for a job. Or rather, question anyone who tells you that they know what they’re doing. Don’t take it at face value or you may become another victim of Arrogant Incompetence.
If you have ever been disappointed by the performance of someone who has played up their qualifications and abilities then you are a victim of arrogant incompetence. It works like this: you are looking for someone to, say, provide a service. For the sake of argument I will draw upon an example from my teen years. My father was having the side patio paved. He started to take the time to explain where the lean was so that the contractor could arrange for adequate drainage. The contractor cut him off, taking offense and telling my father that he’d been doing it for years and that if my father did not trust him, he should get someone else.
In retrospect, he probably should have. As my father predicted, when water was applied, it pooled and the contractor was forced to install a drainage pipe. This is a classic case of arrogant incompetence, and it happens far more often that you think. Donald Trump is an example of arrogant incompetence. He was so full of bravado, “knowing” that fundamental safety precautions were unnecessary during the Pandemic. For anyone paying attention and unconvinced by the obvious deceptions, this was arrogant incompetence. Putin’s failures in Ukraine also suggest arrogant incompetence.
Arrogant incompetence isn’t as simple as lying about your skills to get a job, or some other benefit. That is bad enough but arrogant incompetence is more insidious than that because it is often based on actual qualifications. It is usually a person over-inflating their skills, saying they are better at what they do than they actually are. In reality, such people are setting themselves up for failure. Naturally, they will be put to the test. But that’s okay because most of the arrogantly incompetent have a plan for that: blame.
When everything goes awry (and it will) the obvious next step is to find a scapegoat. It’s always someone else’s fault. To admit that one doesn’t have the abilities that one touted one’s self as having is to admit incompetence and that is incongruous with the “arrogant” qualification.
There is a simple rule of thumb: anyone or anything that claims to be the best, isn’t.
The best don’t need to make such grandiose claims. Their track records speak for themselves. Those who claim to be the best not only aren’t (usually) but often are close to, or are, the worst. Ergo, anyone or anything that claims to be the best is guilty of deception and, as we have seen, deception is far worse than simply being misleading.
More important than being able to spot the arrogantly incompetent is the ability to temper your own arrogance so as not to be incompetent. It is important for one to know one’s own limitations. It may cost you the job but think about it: would you really want that job if you had to lie about your qualifications? Chances are you would not be able to do the job properly. You will get found out, and it wouldn’t be a long term solution. Furthermore, as time goes on a reputation develops, particularly in the modern digital age where experiences can be shared almost instantaneously.
Given the choice of two candidates, if one said to me that they knew everything about what I was looking for and the other said they didn’t know too much but were willing to put in their best effort to learn what they need to, I would select the latter. The former is probably lying. The latter is probably being truthful, and I can tell this from their willingness to admit to their own failings. It has nothing to do with experience. It has to do with integrity. As we have seen, there is nothing wrong with being wrong provided one is willing to admit it and learn from it. There is everything wrong with being wrong if one tries to hide it.
There is a related maxim: Never trust anyone who is so insecure that they have to boast how good they are. Arrogant incompetence stems from a deep-seated insecurity. These people know that they aren’t as good as others and, rather than strive to achieve, it’s easier to simply lie. Easier, but not honorable and honour is a critical part of Solipsology, but a topic for a later sermon.