I'll have incompetence with that

SPASA New South Wales & ACT

By Spiros Dassakis
Thursday, 09 February, 2017

I'll have incompetence with that

I think I’m an extremely competent manager. Many of my associates are very competent as well. Nevertheless, I am frequently slowed down by the incompetent acts of others.

Many managers and employees have developed the art of incompetence into a new skill. Rather than simply making mistakes and learning, their incompetence is now a value-added benefit provided at no cost in everything they do.

Too often I find managers and employees who are great at a particular skill are promoted into an area that they are just terrible at. That’s when all the fun starts.

If you stand back and take a good hard and honest look at any business, you are likely to see examples of very talented managers and employees doing exceptionally stupid things or making significant incompetent mistakes.

It is worth remembering that the more incompetent a manager is, the less qualified that manager is to assess anyone’s skill or performance in the company they manage — including their own.

We are generally more forgiving of incompetent employees who we consider to be nice, as opposed to employees who are more difficult to get on with.

I have always wondered whether incompetent employees recognise or seek out other incompetent employees and whether such employees see their incompetence as normal and just go about their business competing with other incompetent employees?

I am the first to acknowledge that even smart people make stupid incompetent mistakes; however, such incidents are generally outweighed by more frequent intelligent actions or decisions.

No person or industry is immune from ‘incompetence phenomenon syndrome’.

Have you ever taken the time to consider the cost of professional incompetence? It would be frightening. Every company profit and loss statement should have a line item in its accounts entitled “Professional Incompetence”.

Professional incompetence is the cost to the business of employees and managers making repetitive incompetent mistakes and decisions on a daily basis. It’s the hidden cost of doing business. Professional incompetence has a cost and it multiplies every day managers and employees decide to do nothing.

So how does a company get its employees unstuck from being incompetent?

A good starting point includes:

  • setting clear expectations that can be measured;
  • explaining the importance of completing the task(s);
  • going through the consequences of not achieving the task(s);
  • offering ongoing assistance;
  • providing additional resources;
  • being patient with changing behaviour;
  • not being afraid to check on the employee’s progress midway;
  • confronting the employee if things are not going as planned.

Always remember: your business is not the only one dealing with incompetence. These days, equal opportunity literally means that everyone will have a fair chance at being incompetent within a business at some point in time in their career.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Павел Игнатов

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