There are a range of ways incompetence shows up in business, generally it relates to people not being skilled to do a task, e.g. a Tradesperson who says they can do a specific task but it turns out they have never done that task before and so a huge learning curve starts, sometimes with a not so good end result.
Why do people do incompetent things?
- They feel they have to at least try – Perhaps they believe it’s an expectation the customer has, or a supervisor has and they want to ‘give it a go’. They thought they had the skill and or ability but they didn’t, it may cause a minor ‘hiccup’ or it could cost the organisation dearly.
- Communication error – Have you seen someone pass a message on and the receiver of the message interpreted the information quite differently. Before long it can be badly distorted and a small issue is blown out of proportion.
- Strategic error – Here’s the plan, it looks good BUT I don’t have the ability to pull it off, but don’t worry, I won’t tell you that until I am under pressure and REALLY pushed to make comment. ‘Oh I thought it would be easier than this but as it turns out it was a nightmare…’
- They managed to get this far on cunning and stealth – Therefore I expect to get further with the same mind and skill set. Chances are though you may miss a critical part of a new process and not have the ability to pick up on it. Oops a problem arises and soon there is no way out.
- They don’t let their ego get in the way – I’m good at what I do, just ask me, what’s that? You have someone saying I’m not, oh watch me burst into tears and go off work based on a stress evaluation from my Dr… or better still my Manager will support my many years of ‘good work’, and bluff others into seeing me in a different light. I will “keep my nose clean” for a while and then fade back to my Incompetent ways.
- Oh I didn’t realise… – You knew you were doing the wrong thing and now you are acting innocent and coy. “But I was told by X that this was the way to do it, I am so sorry I got it wrong” Yeah right and then you blame someone else for it, weasel out of the situation and all is forgiven. The boss sees it as an anomaly, they like you… you clean their pool, ooh how awkward.
- They must be good, we promoted them – You got promoted because no one else was stupid enough to take on the task, or others knew the job would be loaded with problems and put you forward for the role, and you thought you got it on merit.
- Pick me I’m dumb… – Hmm Ok I will pick you, you won’t jostle for my job, you can be told what to do, I can keep you where I want you to be, beneath me. Harsh? Hmm try realistic…
Your organisation really does need to do careful evaluations on its people to figure out if incompetence rocks in your workplace and then make sure you select people who are exceptional, ask more of the right questions and do more of the right things, not just yes men who bluff thier way through life.