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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Longest Year: The Contractor

Stereotypes, I've heard it from nearly every mouth. Even my friends, even card-carrying liberals, even psychiatrists, have adopted the same belief, which they confessed to me: If a highly educated person or a person in managerial position is black or brown, his advancement must have been secured by lowered standards and a fear of discrimination lawsuits. Never have I heard anyone speculate that a middle-aged white man's position must have been secured by the paleness of his skin or the mustache on his lips, even though sometimes one needs a magnifying glass to find a speck of real quality that allows him to be promoted to the ruler of women and others. But we all know white men are exempt from stereotyping, don't we? Except, I have finally accepted, every elaborate bullshitter I've met is men, predominantly middle-aged white men.

The CEO of the company that has won several contracts with this, uh, organization, is one of the biggest bullshitters I have met. Once he opens his mouth, no one can wedge a word in without a hammer and a chisel. He talks more rapidly when he doesn't know what he is talking about, when he has no leg to stand on, and, most of all, when he is wrong and knows it. He gets away with it with a couple of amazing and crucial qualities: a layer of skin thicker than the stone walls of a pyramid and the ability to take the conversation in unending circles. Whenever you catch and point out his mistake and incompetency of his, his silver tongue automatically turns it around to blame it on you, even though you are the client who will pay him for his work. Look, everything is your own fault, because you don't know what you REALLY want. I told you what you want, and you didn't listen. The dexterity and slickness of this maneuver match the skills of any second-hand car salesman. Brilliant.

If he was not male or white, it would be unthinkable that he would have been able to get away with bluffing his way to the top without being pinned down people's skepticism. Protected by his dominant characteristics, however, his luck never runs out. There are always plenty of people willing to throw money at his supreme confidence. Who cares if he gives little more than worthless bullshit? His bullshit satisfies most people's intrinsic need for authoritative assurance, and who better give this soothing assurance than a gray-haired, tall, white male with above-average height and an attractive baritone?

Even with the favorable appearance, it was baffling why the Boss Lady gave them the THIRD contract in 2 years, after barely completing 2 previous contracts with gross incompetence and endless conflicts with the internal staff who were supposed to be his clients. The previous work he delivered was so shoddy and full of mistakes that the internal staff had to re-do more than half of the work for him. The excruciating process of dealing with him and his poor, clueless subordinates had sent at least 2 of Ms. B's assistants running away to other departments. Yet the wheels are turning again. He has returned to the game of trying to get the most from the gullible sheep by doing as little as possible.

Why does she do it? Why get herself into the mess again? She is hardly a masochist. Yet, a lot of people feel more content being robbed and kicked by a reassuring authority figure than being well pampered by a suspicious-looking character. Perhaps Ms. B is dazzled by his glittering bullshit. Of course she is in the position to delegate most of the crappy details to internal staff who are too wimpy to say no to her. Neither do they have the balls to call out the incompetence and veiled nastiness of the contractor, because one has to be either a bitch like B or a spineless doormat to survive so long in this organization. Perhaps, she is too lazy to find another contractor with anything resembling competence, sans the attitude. Perhaps, her long-term memory is so crippled that she cannot remember anything beyond a few days before and after the present moment.

*******

This particular contract is being run by the hapless and clueless Ms. B, because it was her boss who had the budget to carry out the project. Yet the boss and his giant office have no expertise to understand, much less oversee, this contract. It should have been given to the office who actual knows a thing or two about the technical basics. But, Mr. JJ, the office boss and his boss, would rather fuck the whole thing up than losing a sliver of their turf to another office. So, naturally, it fell onto the tireless Ms. B who can never quite remember exactly how much work she has already dumped on her subordinates.

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