Feeling incompetent at a new job?

Feeling incompetent at a new job? Here is what you can do!

Whether an amateur or an expert, no one can ace a new job or a new responsibility at a go. Unless, of course, you are the jack of all trades. Even so, there are times when you work with people who are not wanting enough. I have known a friend who always found it difficult to adapt to a new skill. She was always behind with her deadlines the entire school life. Sadly enough, she got fired from her part-time job due to the same. Why? Not “fit” enough. 

Incompetence, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, refers to the inability to do something successfully. It means an incompetent person is not efficient or capable enough to complete the desired job. Is competence a bad thing? Is it a disease? Incompetence is a trait that makes a person work less efficiently than they can, and it is not a disease. Meaning it can be fought. A lot of situations/ habits cause incompetence in people. It may differ from person to person and appear in various forms and at various times. 

  • Laziness. A trait that can make even the best of the best company assets(employees) go chaotic. Being late, making errors(repeated and often), and being unprofessional/ disrespectful towards projects and work are common examples. 
  • Waiting to start work till deadlines. A lot of people push their work for later days to complete a task. For what reason, again, it could be simple laziness or sheer dedication to getting work done. This also creates confusion at the time. The employer/ leader wants to know something beforehand.
  • Sometimes it comes forward as rudeness, anger, over-sensitivity, or failing to manage time and people you work with. Not praising your subordinates’ efforts and not including your teams’ ideas and approvals into a project can also be treated as incompetence at a managerial level. 
  • It is also noticed that an incompetent employer is the one who will not focus on the bigger picture and also avoid taking the right man for the job. 
  • Failure to opt for the right decision at the right time by the right person is incompetence. An incompetent leader at a workplace will usually appear bossy, secretive, arrogant, and not backing up their team.
  • Sometimes one may feel incompetent due to mental turmoil. Missing old job, old place(if one has shifted from one city to another), or old team.
  • It is normal to adjust to a new place, new work, and new people; however, using it as an excuse to lag is incompetence. 
  • Capability and performance are one of the reasons for dismissal from a job. Therefore, if one isn’t capable enough despite the given, fair chances to redeem oneself, it is fair for a boss to fire you. 
  • Lack of adequate training. As basic as it may sound, it is equally frustrating to know that a candidate/friend/employee/employer is not trained enough and yet at a distinguished position. 
  • Lack of upgraded skills. Up and up you go. You need skills and knowledge to sustain and grow. 

Does it make you worried? Are you someone who is juggling every day to make ends meet? Are you scared of losing the job you love? Here is how you can make tables turn!

There is a concept in management called The Peter Principle, developed by Laurence J. Peter, who observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence.”

  • Unconscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Competence
  • Unconscious Competence

Unconscious incompetence talks about a person unaware yet equipped with a skill or knowledge, however not proficient enough, hence incompetent. Conscious incompetence is when a person is aware and equipped with a skill or knowledge however not proficient enough incompetent. Conscious competence helps to realize the utilization of skills or knowledge but only with great effort. Unconscious competence, the last and final stage, where an individual can make full and proficient use of the skill or knowledge. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Some people show constant incompetence, whereas, for some others, it is a rough period that makes them unproductive. It means their incompetence is not deliberate. There are times when your superiors will bash you for your silly mistakes, times when you have to deal with difficult coworkers or collaborations; remember, constant efforts, determination, and discipline is what will get you through. Incompetence can be fought and overcame if you have the courage and fire in your heart to change your current status.

Dealing with Incompetent Co-Workers

  • Don’t criticize openly. It is frustrating to know that your coworker isn’t skilled enough or has proper training. But grumbling and criticizing will not solve anything. 
  • As it appears, once you start working with them, their problem will become your problem too. So to encourage and support them. 
  • Step in their shoes and understand their reason for being incompetent. Then, only take action once you are aware of the issue.
  • However bad it gets, never vent your anger or frustration on them. This will demoralize them and do you no good to meet your target. 
  • Ask for extra hands. Take your superiors into confidence and know whether you can get extra help from somewhere if deadlines are too tight. 
  • To enhance efficiency, help your co-worker during the team building activities and projects to upgrade knowledge and skills.  
  • Motivate them. This is for those colleagues in the hierarchy of competence who are shifting from incompetent to competent. 
  • Even with a good intention of helping, some co-workers are likely to get offended at the thought of you and others in your workplace to treat them as incompetent. It is highly possible that they go into denial, and it causes more harm than good. Therefore, always take a polite and professional approach.

Dealing with Incompetent Employer

  • Confronting is the first and best step in all scenarios to resolve an issue. However, remember to keep your approach polite and professional.
  • Asking for help from colleagues/ coworkers can help. You can take their advice on how to approach things at the workplace.
  • Don’t bad mouth your leader/ employer/ boss. It’s the wrong way of dealing. It will only steer more trouble for you. 
  • Another way of approach can be to help your leader/ superior by finding the root of incompetence. For example, your boss may be under a lot of pressure, causing a rough work pace. Try to support your boss during tough times. 
  • Don’t ruin your health, both physical and mental. It is essential to stay strong and stress-free during tough times. Of course, it is more difficult said than done but is essential for improving scenarios.
  • However, if your leader/ boss is an overall bully and doesn’t change his ways and methods despite your efforts, it is best to resign. After all, it’s about your career. Not to mention, if it’s your first job. 
  • Always respect your boss, whether competent or not. However, do not hold a grudge or act impulsively in troubling situations. 

Dealing with Incompetent Candidate/Employees/Staff

  • As an employer, if you find your staff not working up to the mark, address it to them and always keep a polite and professional approach. 
  • Don’t lose your cool if you find them making mistakes. The right way of approach would be to recognize their problem. It may be lack of awareness, improper training, inadequate skill, etc. Identify, address it and resolve the issue.
  • Know the difference between employees who aren’t able to and those who don’t want to. The approach for both these parties will be different and as per the company rules. 
  • Be there and offer support to those who need it. Team-building activities are not only fun for the team but also a great way to upgrade their skills. 
  • Never ill-treat or misbehave with your staff. But, having said that, don’t allow/ encourage the same among them. 
  • Don’t overlook incompetence too much. You should know when to bid goodbye. If your adequate time, training, and support plan doesn’t work, opt for a different plan. Invest in the resource who is eager to learn and operate despite the harshness.
  • In cases where you do empty a post, seek not to fill it in immediately. Let the idea of losing a job, more so being unable to work in the best form, sink in the mind in the right attitude. Then, after observing for some time, take your call.

You can take a different and more accurate approach to different kinds of occurring incompetencies. Some may pass away soon if you take the right steps with the right mindset. Your boss, colleagues, and yourself can overcome the hurdle together. However, remember that taking the wrong approach can always backfire. 

What if you are feeling incompetent yourself? Or someone else at your workplace, maybe your boss or a colleague, told you? What do you do?

  • First of all, kudos! The first step is the hardest, but it makes it easy to complete the rest of the journey once done. The first step is acceptance of one’s failures. If you have accepted that you cannot work up to the mark, you deserve a pat. Half of the work is done here.
  • What if you are not able to come to peace with this reality? Give yourself time, don’t overstress. Take things gradually, preferably one at a time. Having said that, remember that you don’t have all the time in the world as your boss may eliminate you from a project or job.
  • It is okay to ask for help. Approach your boss, talk to your coworkers or friends to help you overcome this. 
  • Find your reason for being incompetent and where exactly you are lagging.
  • If need be, take an off. Rest and relax. Cut down your worries and get back to work with the right frame of mind.
  • Once you get that figured out, upgrade your knowledge and skills. Take proper training if need be. It doesn’t matter if you have to start from scratch. Remember your boss and colleagues will understand and encourage your intention to learn and grow.
  • Don’t go hard on yourself if you attempt multiple failures. We learn from mistakes. Once you have made a mistake, you will learn from it and outgrow it the next time a similar situation occurs.
  • Always remember that a never-giving-up attitude is acknowledged despite the failures. People at your workplace will notice that too!
  • Be disciplined and dedicated. This is what will truly help you.
  • Lastly, always monitor your progress. Then, when you feel low, you can reflect on where you started and how well you have done!

Fun facts!

Here are some leading examples of business leaders who experienced failures at their workplace. It can give you strength at tough times:

  • Bill Gates. Failed at Traf-O-Data, found Success with Microsoft.
  • Evan Williams. Failed at Odea, found Success with Twitter.
  • Colonel Sanders. Failed at A lamp manufacturing company, and a rejected recipe found Success with KFC.
  • James Dyson. Failures over 5000 times, found Success with Dyson vacuums.
  • Walt Disney. Failure at Animation company found Success with Walt Disney Company.
  • Thomas Edison. Failures with “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” Then, after several years and changing 1000 ways, I found Success with the Light Bulb.
  • Henry Ford. Failure at The Detroit Automobile Company & Henry Ford Company found Success at the Henry Ford Company.

These are the legends who gave it their all against all odds, failures, and incompetencies, sometimes due to their own self and sometimes because of their coworkers, boss/ leaders, and others. They also juggled the same way as you, they also started with failures and mocking in the face, but the spirit to prove themselves and overcome their incompetencies got them where they are today. If they can do it, you can do it too! All you need to do is try and strive for a change! 

Feeling incompetent at a new job?

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