People spend years preparing themselves for a professional career being educated and perhaps serving some type of internship as a part of the process. However, many find themselves surrounded by others who by divine stipulation or natural talent are ready, willing and able to tell them how to do their job. There’s a quote that Snopes.com believes might even be correctly attributed from the Civil War that illustrates this phenomenon.
“It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our
most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers! In fact, I discovered by
reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic
defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late.
Accordingly, I’m readily willing to yield my command to these obviously
superior intellects, and I’ll, in turn, do my best for the Cause by
writing editorials – after the fact.”
– Robert E. Lee, 1863
It happens to all of us, not just military leaders. Artists throughout the range from music to theater have critics who feel competent to judge from on high as opposed to competing. Physicians not only have to deal with patients who are quick to point out what their friend’s doctor recommended but also the legions of advertisers who urge us to “ask your doctor if this is right for you.” Those of us who studied management know that every single employee believes that they would be a better boss.
It almost makes sense that everyone ends up in the wrong profession. How many of us choose a career direction at 18 or 20 with absolutely no idea what the real world is all about? How many young people get their future chosen by parents? Some insist that the children go into the family business. Others proclaim that their children can do whatever they want once they finish medical or law school.
Perhaps it would be more productive to randomly assign people to occupations after they have completed their classroom education. This would not only reduce anointing members of the next generation but might also encourage a more well-rounded education. It might also result in people being more satisfied with their jobs because they could be thankful for the jobs that they might have been assigned but weren’t. Something like, “Being a teacher isn’t so bad; I was scared to death that I’d be assigned to be a mortician or a doctor. I faint at the sight of blood.”
Of course there’s a more outrageous possibility as well. We could give people the benefit of the doubt on the job they’re performing and admit that being a war time military leader or a chef or a police officer or such is a difficult job. Maybe the person doing the job is trying to do it right with the resources available and with those constraints it can’t be done much better.
After all, each of us does the best job we can. Maybe the others do too.