“I hadn’t been at my company long when I began to wonder how my supervisor, Carl*, got to be in his position of authority. The guy had worked in our industry for close to three decades, yet he still had no idea how to do his job.
When I joined the team, one of the first things I noticed about Carl was that he never did any actual work and always showed up to meetings unprepared. He would also steal ideas from others on the team, including me, and pass them off as his own.
But worse than that, Carl was just plain incompetent and often sloppy when it came to even the simplest of tasks. Whenever we had to write important reports or work on big projects, he would ask me and other colleagues for suggestions, which he’d later take credit for. He would also get us to work on difficult reports for him, never offering us any guidance or direction as we slogged away well into the night to get them done in time.
The scary thing is that the bosses who supervised Carl had no idea of his incompetence and lack of work ethic. Because he was pally with them, he knew how to hide his laziness, and they didn’t know any better. As long as our team was performing well and our projects and reports were completed by our deadline, they assumed that Carl was doing his job right.
I wasn’t happy about any of this. I’d joined this particular financial company because it had a good reputation and I knew I’d have opportunities to climb the career ladder as I gained more experience and skills. However, I’d not anticipated having to work under such an ineffective leader, and after several months of waiting for things to change, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Exposing the boss’ incompetence
One of my main strategies was to make Carl look like a useless fool in front of his superiors. I knew he never researched what was going to be discussed at meetings, so I’d purposely ask him questions to show him up. Once, while his direct boss was present, I asked Carl a specific question about an important financial plan we were working on – and he couldn’t answer it. In fact, he didn’t even know what I was talking about. He stammered while trying to defend himself and kept looking over to our team for help, but nobody threw him a lifeline. His boss didn’t look too impressed and had a word with him later.
I always over-prepared for our department meetings. The more I questioned Carl in front of our colleagues and bosses, the worse he looked. I knew I was doing a horrible thing but I was determined to show up Carl for the hopeless and inept boss that he was. I was angry that he’d gotten away with so much for so long. He didn’t deserve to work at the company, let alone lead.
Occasionally I’d also send Carl incorrect financial data or fudge certain crucial details about our clients, which he’d then pass on to his supervisors. Of course, the information never added up in the end and he always got into trouble for it. Once, we almost lost a client because of a mistake the bosses thought he’d made. Luckily for me, Carl never kept track of what information he was getting from whom, so he could never trace the mistakes or discrepancies back to me.
Waiting for the axe to fall
Over the next couple of months, Carl appeared increasingly stressed. He looked especially worried and flustered whenever his bosses asked to speak to him or after he got off the phone with them. It was clear that he was making way too many mistakes for them not to notice. A few of the company’s clients even complained that Carl seemed out of the loop with their financial affairs, and this didn’t bode well with the heads of our company. Carl was making them look bad and now, everyone – even people in rival companies – was talking.
Things got really bad when one of our company directors demanded to find out how Carl managed our team and work flow. Carl was so incompetent that he didn’t even bother to keep a record of what the team did every week or which team member was in charge of which client, project or financial report. He’d taken for granted that he could cruise through his role and that nobody would notice, but he was wrong.
Completing the takeover
Pretty soon, word got out that Carl’s job was on the line and our management wanted to replace him. I saw this as my chance to take over and lead the team. Over the next few weeks, I worked hard to make an impact, contributing a lot at meetings, preparing detailed reports about whatever I was working on, and bringing new clients in. All this made me look good in the eyes of our company directors, but it made Carl look even worse.
I think Carl suspected that I was trying to get him into trouble because his attitude towards me changed and he began to treat me differently, cutting me off during conversations and not acknowledging me whenever he passed me in the office. I didn’t care; I knew he was on the way out and that I would likely be chosen as his successor. I played along until our directors told me that they were seriously considering me for the job.
Carl was booted from the company a week after I put my job application in. The next day, I was told that I’d been promoted to a supervisory role, replacing Carl. I was over the moon, especially since I really wanted the job and had the support of the bosses and my teammates.
I could’ve just suffered in silence under Carl until a new job opportunity came along, or complained to our management about the lack of leadership, but I knew that I had to be proactive in order to completely turn the situation around. Complaining might have gotten Carl’s bosses’ attention but I didn’t want to come across as bitter, petty or vindictive.
Looking back, I did the right thing by exposing Carl’s incompetence and laziness. He basically got himself fired – he’d been incapable of doing the job all along. I just made sure that his inadequacy was on full display for everyone to see.
*Names have been changed