incompetent coworker

What To Do With An Incompetent Co-worker

At any given time, in any given job, you will find yourself working with people displaying a range of competencies. Coworkers can vary from absolute experts to how-on-earth-did-he-ever-get-this-job deadwood. The latter can be frustrating – particularly when you find yourself frequently having to cover or compensate for their shortcomings. What do you do?

Think before you speak

Let me begin with a caution. No matter how bad you believe coworkers to be at their jobs, if their actions are not directly affecting you, then the only appropriate course of action is to do and say nothing.

Why? Because if you’re not directly involved, there is always a chance that you are not aware of outside influences and other factors that may be impacting their work. Seemingly odd or inappropriate behavior is very often explained with a better understanding of an overall situation.

The last thing you want to do is risk wrongly accusing coworkers of incompetence. That would make you the Coworker from Hell.

4 steps to helping your coworker

In those situations where you are directly involved, and you are being negatively affected, here are four steps to take:

  1. Offer to help out.  Be supportive. Many times the behavior we perceive as incompetence is a result of a lack of confidence. Give them moral support and see if things don’t improve.
  2. If the first step doesn’t work, talk to your boss. Don’t just dump all over your coworkers. Be positive. Identify your coworkers’ positive attributes, and suggest that it might be in everyone’s best interests for them to have some additional training.
  3. If #2 doesn’t work, try to distance yourself from your coworker as much as possible.  It may sound harsh, but you don’t want their performance to impact yours.
  4. If #3 doesn’t work, it’s time to begin evaluating your options.  If you absolutely can’t continue working with this individual, and your boss is showing no signs of improving the situation, you may want to begin seeking other opportunities either inside or outside of your company.

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