Best Steps to Overcome Incompetence at Work: 2024 Guide

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According to a report by Statista, the global rate of unemployment amounted to 5.42 percent in 2020. While the report which covers 2010 to 2020 doesn’t show a steady rise, the current rate still leaves a lot to be desired. On the other hand, employers of labour face a challenge on their end – incompetence. Every employee needs to overcome incompetence at work, else we would experience a surge in the unemployment rate.

Incompetence at work refers to the inability of an employee to perform up to par with the expectations and responsibilities of their job. When your employer or work colleagues cannot rely on you to deliver on your job and other assigned tasks, you are termed incompetent.

You are probably wondering whether or not you are one of those who need to overcome incompetence at work.And is it possible to be incompetent and not be unaware? The answer is yes. This article would highlight a few signs, causes and steps to help you overcome incompetence at work.

Signs of Incompetence

1) Excuses

If you always give reasons why you couldn’t get stuff done, you are always been called out as the employee with tons of excuses, that is a sign of incompetence. While your employer may still have you on their payroll, you may well be on your way out, if you don’t overcome incompetence at work now.

2) Unproductivity

Every activity you engage in as an employee of an organization has cost implications. If it is not costing your employer money, it is costing time and other intangible resources. It is only reasonable for your employer to expect results in return. An inability to produce results amount to incompetence.

3) Laziness

The workplace is no space for the lazy. If you are constantly dragging, in need of motivation to do your work or the last person to get started on tasks, that is a serious sign of incompetence at work.

4) Underperformance

Performing below the expectations of your job role is a sign of incompetence at work. You are employed to do a job and expected to do it well enough to enable your employer to focus on other things.

5) Constant Complaints

Upon employment, it is important to get clarity regarding the expectations of your job role. This clarity is meant to help you shoot right on target and stay on the good side of things. Constant warnings, complaints or queries is a sign of incompetence at work. In some organizations, you are forced to resign after the third query.

6) Lone Player

No man is indeed an island, no matter how big he gets and a tree doesn’t make a forest, no matter how large or tall it grows. An organization is a collection of different systems, made up of different units and individuals. These systems and the individuals that man them are expected to work together for the common goal(s) of the organization. An inability or unwillingness to work with other people is a sign that you need to overcome incompetence at work.

What Causes Incompetence?

1) Deficiency in Training

Most people who need to overcome incompetence at work are not in that shoe because they are incapable of doing their job well. For some, the problem is simply a lack of training.

Most employers assume that employees already know what to do, hence, they pay little or no attention to staff training. It is important to quickly point out that as a smart career professional, you cannot depend solely on your employer for the pieces of training you need. Take responsibility for your growth, get trained and keep improving.

2) Absence of Soft skills

We often spend too much time developing hard and technical skills that we quickly forget how equally important soft skills are. Lack of soft skills shows itself in your ability to think critically, work with other people and maintain your objectivity at all times.

To overcome incompetence at work, invest some time and resources in soft skills.

3) Poor Communication Skills

While working as an account officer in a leading real estate firm, I remember an incident that saw me get suspended. Looking back now, I realize that it was simply a communication issue. Communicating your great work properly is as important as doing great work. You must be able to communicate properly or your competence would be in doubt.

4) Unwillingness to Grow

Knowledge is progressive and change is constant. To stay relevant and avoid the incompetence trap, you need to place a premium on your growth game.

Ever heard of the Peter Principle?It was propounded by Dr Peter J. Laurence. This principle posits that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach their level of incompetence – a point they are unwilling to learn what it takes to be competent for a new role.

How to Overcome Incompetence at Work

Your performance at work affects your productivity in other areas of your life, hence, you must be willing to put in the work needed to overcome incompetence at work. To rise through the ranks and excel at the top, you must be that employee that brings his A-game to the table always.

Below are some tips on how to overcome incompetence at work:

1) Quit Making Excuses

Making excuses will slow you down. Excuses have a way of making you think that it is okay not to deliver on tasks or to constantly put off work to a later time. Making excuses would not take you far in your professional career. You must build a reputation that sets you apart as one who is disciplined enough to follow through on tasks.

People don’t usually realize how damaging the habit of making excuses is until it is too late.Excuses make you look weak, forcing your superiors and colleagues at the office to avoid involving you in major projects. To overcome incompetence at work, you must get rid of excuses.

2) Stop Complaining

This is a big turn off! If you want to overcome incompetence at work, stop the habit of complaining. Things are not perfect, people are not perfect and neither are you. Instead of complaining too much, take responsibility and make things happen.

Complaining regularly would make you unattractive to your colleagues and worst still, your superior. It is okay for you to express your displeasure over things. However, do not make it a habit.Try this, whenever you want to complain about something, proffer a solution alongside and ensure you are talking to the right person.

3) Desist from Gossiping

Workplace gossip is unhealthy! How do you intend to grow if you are always involved in gossip? The time and energy spent on gossip can be put to better productive use. You are better off researching and learning something new than spending time in idle talk.

Be deliberate about getting rid of gossip at work. An involvement in gossip drains productive energy, leaving participants with negative energy and the result is dismal performance. To overcome incompetence at work, you need to shun gossip.

4) Become a Smart Worker

Are you a smart worker? Do you know how to become a smart worker? In case you have not realized, the rules of work have changed. Emphasis has now moved from hard work to smart work. It is gross incompetence in today’s world to spend time, energy and resources on something that technology has provided a quick and easy solution for.

To overcome incompetence at work, your skillset must go beyond doing things a mobile app can do with better efficacy and minimal errors. You must learn how to utilize smart tools, they save time and reduce cost.


Overcoming incompetence at work is no rocket science, it simply requires a conscious commitment to be better, a deliberate effort to improve in addition to the acquisition of relevant soft skills.

With discipline, focus and consistency, anyone can overcome incompetence at work.

Cheers to your career growth!

Written by: Emenike Chijioke

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