Crossing Paths With a Competent Idiot

Crossing Paths With a Competent Idiot


I am not sure which one of the above said the words first but as identifying the author of the quote is not the objective of this post, I have attached the images of both George Carlin and Mark Twain. Whoever said it first couldn’t have been more right!

To understand the true meaning of this quote, one simply has to go through the experience . The 6th of February marks the day that I was chosen to be blessed with this invaluable opportunity!

You’re probably raising your eyebrows and wondering what took me so long – a)Either I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people of at-least minimum intelligence or intelligence far more than mine or b) I have just been very lucky not to have crossed paths with an argumentative fool or c) My memory fails me and I do not remember any previous episode.

Whatever be the case, I was shunned to silence, the kind of silence that leaves you staring ahead, shocked at the absurdity of the situation and the ignoramus who claims to be right.

Before you jump to conclusions and pin me down as an obnoxious, judgmental, critic, I must tell you a little about myself, so that you can decide fairly.

I simply belong to the group of employees who are aware of what they do not know, are willing to learn from those who do, have no qualms about apologizing when mistaken AND will do everything to identify the root cause of a mistake simply to avoid a repetition. Well,that’s what I knew about me, in my role as an employee, a manager, a leader for the last 2 decades; up until February the 6th.


February the 6th, however was a day of enlightenment; I realized another facet to my personality. A facet that gives up a fight and walks away. Am I proud of it? I don’t know. What I do know is what Mark Twain said, “You can’t win an argument with a fool”.

When stupidity is paired with arrogance and ego, it becomes a deadly combination, leading to the death of all those who must deal with it. A death by asphyxiation!. In my case, it left me with a splitting headache.


Why are some people so hard to convince?

Why is it difficult for some people to accept suggestions that they know will benefit them?

Why do some people get so ruffled up when they are merely asked a question?

Is it insecurity or an inflated ego that makes people difficult?

Do you believe such people can come in the way of progress of an organization?Do you think psychometric tests done to identify personality traits really help? Do you think training helps in moulding personalities?

Arrogance Versus Confidence


As per Peter Baron Stark, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. When leaders are confident, they have a deep belief in their ability to make a difference in the world. Confidence is an important competency in leadership, and it is critical to your success. Confidence is motivating and inspirational to others. It gives you the ability to take the risks needed to stay innovative and push your team or organization further ahead. Arrogance crosses the line of confidence. Arrogant people believe they no longer have a need to learn, grow, or change. They wholeheartedly believe that they are right and others are wrong. For more information on this you can check Arrogant-leadership test

Attitude Versus Intelligence: If you had to decide, which one would you prefer?


Would you prefer a person of average intelligence with a great attitude or a genius with a difficult attitude?

While the learning curve for a person with average intelligence is longer than a genius, the person with average intelligence will sustain longer and will foster healthier relationships. Check the link for more information on Attitude versus Aptitude

Where do you fit in (be honest to yourself)? Do you know of people who fit in the other boxes? Where should you be? How should you get there?

Despite an H.R. Department, why do organisations have toxic people?

While there’s a lot of material out there on how to recruit the right person, the kind of leaders organisations must have, work culture, rules to communicate professionally; is it really used by H.R.? If the answer is “Yes”, then we wouldn’t have issues of people getting fired purely because of attitude or personality. The answer lies somewhere between a “Yes” and a “No”. H.R. probably does care but when met with the demands of business to fill positions requiring skilled employees, they may be forced to oversee a few areas related to personality traits. That’s when the organisation ends up with people who are difficult to work with “High Competence Low Value”.

What does Management think of toxicity?

This depends on the position of the employee in question. If the employee is in the ranks of middle level management, is able to deliver, meet deadlines, the Top Management may not care. All attitude related issues may be side-lined as inadvertent costs of getting the job done until someone decides to send a written complaint to H.R. or threatens to go to the labor court. That’s when Management will get rid of this highly competent low value performer and cut all ties so as not to be embroiled in “messy” affairs.

My advice to all reading the post

Do not tolerate toxic people. If you are experiencing toxicity in the office and it’s increasing your stress level, your ability to focus and deliver, then it’s time you speak up or move on. There’s no point in taking “crap” from anybody.

I know you’re thinking it’s easier said than done when you have a family who depends on you, the job market isn’t great or you’re skills are not scarce . In that case, speak to your boss or H.R. and discuss how you feel and how the person’s behavior is affecting you. Unless the person is totally shameless, the person will attempt to change.

I often wonder why people who are extremely good at their jobs remain silent and do not speak up for themselves. But this I guess has been the way of the world from time immemorial, hence the rise of dictators and creation of colonies.

Remember nobody can put you down without Your permission. So next time you feel bullied or disrespected, don’t blame; take ownership.


Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.

21 responses to “Crossing Paths With a Competent Idiot”

  1. That was a very insightful post, Smitha. Like you have already explained HR cannot look into every aspect of the candidate to make a decision on his/her recruitment, surely a competent person who can bring them better business and has more prospects of doing better will be taken into consideration first and then everything else. But whether an office setup or outside, every sort of people make it up, it is up to us to decide whether to put up with them or not.

    Liked by 1 person

      • To a large extent, Smitha, we do get paid for putting up with them, but there had been times when I would not. I have had a thin line of tolerance in that case. I must confess that it is not a great quality but I suppose one I thought helped me put up a stand and not let them get the feeling that they can just get away with it all. Are we not individuals too ? And if there were concerns with respect to the job it is another story altogether but it clearly is not the case as you have pointed out, so….

        Liked by 1 person

        • Me too Pranitha. I do not put up with madness if it touches me or my team but if it’s only something that comes my way then I find it better to avoid it to retain my sanity. They know you’re better and it makes them insecure. In such cases I let my work speak for me and then they hate me even more😀. As long as you’re sure about yourself, it shouldn’t bother you and when it doesnt bother us, they hate it. That’s the fun part to see them agitated.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Smitha, I read this article with great interest. It is true that people of very high IQ often have a very low EQ. I see this with my son who is turning 15 and who has severe OCD. He is extremely intelligent but, as a result, he finds it very difficult to relate to his peers and the people around him. It is a continuous struggle to try and help him deal with people. Of course, mixing with people is a fundamental requirement in life. It was due to this need for him to learn to mix with other kids that we took him out of the school for gifted children he was attending and put him into a main stream school. He still struggles but it is better than it would have been.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robbie. I’m sorry not to have replied earlier. Just got very busy. Yes EQ is extremely important. But in your son’s case, he probably finds it difficult because he is so intelligent. Guess sports or music would help him. Its good you took a decision to move him. Not mixing with others for fun is still fine if children are able to work in a team when required and if they are not mean to those who are less intelligent and if they are willing to accept their mistakes. I have also struggled with my daughter’s social skills, so I totally understand your predicament.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes I am sure many of us have come across such situations and walking away is indeed the best solution, it helps to keep your sanity rather than an outburst. Handling these situations is also part required to be accomplished as best as possible

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right Chitra. An outburst only leaves you feeling worse so it’s best to keep your dignity and maintain silence as long as it’s not creating issues in your work or personal life. Thank you so much Chitra for reading and commenting. Its good to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • A tinge of arrogance like Mr. Darcy had in Pride and Predjudice may still be forgiven and considered attractive😉. But when it’s backed by ignorance and pure conceit then well, it’s repulsive initially and later leaves you feeling sorry for the person and even more sorry for yourself that you need to deal with it diplomatically in an organisation. On the positive side it does teach one patience😀
      Thank you Christy for checking out the post. It’s a pleasure to hear from you always.🙂


  4. Hi Smitha,

    I remember that quote by Mark Twain, and when I heard it the first time I laughed, and I said I agree 🙂 Great tips, I will only add my opinion. It is connected with mind, because people with open mind are ready to learn, to listen every new idea, but people with narrow perspective are not. They think they are the center of the Universe, and they have a very big ego.So, can we change them, NO, but we can choose how big impact they will have on us !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely Ben! Thank you so much for sharing ‘your opinion’ which in my opinion is your wisdom. I am so glad you feel the same. Like you’ve said, you can help those who are willing to be helped or changed; not those who think they know it all. Thank you again Ben🙂.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much, friend. Surely you understand by now how much the introvert me hates confrontation and would go at lengths to avoid them but then from my past experiences, yes toxic people at work need to be dealt with and smartly too. Also yes why is it so hard for some people to accept they are wrong or they need an improvement. It’s so difficult to handle the kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Andrea. They are smart people but their ego and negativity blindens them and makes them a nuisance in the work-place. They most often bring the worst out in us and that must be consciously avoided. Thank you for checking out the post☺. Your posts come as a sweet balm after an encounter with toxicity🙂. Thank you for them.

      Liked by 1 person

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