An incompetent employee is basically an employee who doesn’t have the necessary job skills to do a job well. That may include a dysfunctional or toxic personality or bad social skills which manifests itself with bad relationships with the boss or manager and with coworkers thus endangering good morale.
Ideally a resume and job interview should weed out the incompetent individuals but it is always possible that the candidate for the job may lie and deceive and succeed in being hired much to the later dismay of the boss or manager.
Things such as prior job experience, number of prior jobs, length of time worked at the jobs, drug tests, future plans, and reasons for leaving are all important in determining potential job competence.
Possible personality flaws are hard to diagnose during an interview but a potential job candidate should have a good communication skills and be able to answer questions relatively spontaneously, with conviction, and fluently. Showing up late, hesitancy, inability to answer some valid questions, stupid answers, a very laid back attitude, nonawareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, or inappropriate dress may all be red flags and possible personality drawbacks.
A human resource department does not exist in all organizations but a good one may filter out the bad candidates for a job before an actual interview with the boss or manager.
Once hired there are signs of job incompetence. The human may be a procrastinator and basically be unmotivated or slow and lazy, they may make many mistakes or be slow learners, and generally not do the job in a timely fashion by taking too long to do a job or rushing through and not doing the job well.
Then there is the insubordinate human, the incessant complainer, the overly argumentative or bullying type, the back stabber, the chronic gossiper, and one constantly making excuses and blaming others or circumstances for not doing the job right.
These personality flaws can become very toxic in the work environment and ruin company morale so it is important to act on the problem sooner rather than later and it is important to document all the unfortunate incidents if firing becomes necessary. Legally you don’t have to give a reason for firing someone if they are not a member of a union but if you have documented all the bad incidents then you yourself can have confidence in your decision to let someone go and not further ruin company morale.
There can be infrequent insubordination, occasional complaints, occasional arguments, some bullying, some gossip, and some excuses and blaming. If infrequent you may choose to ignore the rare bad incidents but if it is a complaint then you should listen carefully and determine if anything can be done to solve the problem which comes with the complaint.
There are some humans who complain out of habit. They complain about their family, about their friends, about coworkers, about the boss, about the weather, about their job, and about everything in general. These humans are toxic to morale and even if they do their job competently they are still a bad apple which should be removed quickly so they don’t scare away or infect other employees with their negativity.
When two coworkers argue then you may have to involve yourself in a calm manner, listen to both sides of the argument and then suggest ways that they can work things out themselves without taking sides and creating more drama and bad feelings. Arguing with an incompetent boss may be a problem without a solution unless the boss or manager is replaced.
Determining why someone is being insubordinate, complaining, arguing, bullying, or blaming is important if it has not gotten out of hand because you may be able to resolve the problem so it doesn’t happen again. Listen carefully, ask questions, and request suggestions on what may be done to solve the problem.
One important point to make is that the frequency of incompetent behavior is important. Does the incompetence happen once a day, once a week, once a month, or even once a year? If rather infrequent then the incompetence may be bearable and can maybe even be overlooked.
The severity of the incompetence is also a consideration so if it leads to two or more coworkers quitting their jobs then it is definitely severe incompetence which should not have been permitted in the first place.
There is outright insubordination or breaking company rules or not doing what you are ordered or asked to do. This is serious insubordination but sometimes a worker may have a different yet valid way of doing things which still gets the job done in a timely fashion. You may ask someone to do something a certain way and they may come up with a different but just as good way of doing something. This is not outright insubordination but merely a different way of doing something and basically getting the same results. Call it an example of creativity if you want, but don’t object to it in a condescending brutal way if you still want them to do it exactly your way.
Some workers may make excuses and blame others or circumstances for being late or not doing the job right. I got up late, I partied last night, I argued with my spouse, I was caught in traffic, I had a death in the family, I had a headache, my child had an accident, I had a flat tire, I’m tired, I didn’t have enough time, I had too many interruptions, I had an argument, I was given the wrong advice, I don’t feel good, etc. are all possible excuses for not showing up on time or bad job performance.
The procrastinator or unmotivated lazy employee still doing marginal work can be a real dilemma. Setting time deadlines for a task or tasks can be tried, praise for doing a job quickly may help but ultimately an unmotivated employee is an irritant to fellow coworkers who may have to work extra hard and do some of the workload of the unmotivated one. If the procrastinator shows up to work on time then you may have to fire them without cause and maybe simply say there is not enough work around here anymore for you to do. Effectively we are laying off the workforce and you are included.
Ultimately the manager or boss sets the tone of the workplace. If the manager is competent, optimistic, almost always in a good mood, greets workers before work, is willing to give advice and ask for advice when appropriate, engages in solving problems, gives appropriate praise or rewards for work well done, fairly punishes when necessary, shows concern for the emotional state of employees and empathizes with them, is kind and considerate, has a sense of humor, and generally has a positive can do attitude then you can’t really ask for much more.
Not hiring incompetent workers in the first place is the smart thing to do. If there is severe or glaring incompetence after hiring then firing or laying off is the right thing to do to avoid future morale problems in the company.
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