Epitome of Incompetence?

We have already discussed the theory Incompetence is its own reward. What really drives it, though? When we look into what it takes to truly not care about one’s own performance, much is left to be said. In the end, by refusing to tolerate incompetence, you are saving money.

Job Description

Only on rare occasions does a job present without a job description. Some of it will be the underlying you know this is part of your job, like cooking being a part of a chef’s position. However, a good portion of it will be spelled out explicitly in a job description or a contract. For example, your contract may say you must reconcile books on a biweekly basis.

So, what makes people decide not to perform the functions of their positions? Only one thing.


One of the common excuses for not doing one’s job is not having sufficient time to finish all the required tasks. Why do we run out of time?

  • Not efficient at the tasks
  • Doing work of others
  • Lollygagging
  • Procrastination
  • Poor time management
  • Incompetence

While the first five should be the purview of the supervisor, the last one should be the harbinger for a sack. When one does not have the required skill set to complete a task, one should have the fortitude to announce its inadequacy rather than blaming a short clock. With the proper training, lackluster performance can be eradicated, thus manufacturing time.

Lack of Help

While this is partnered with doing work of others, it is different. When a project requires more than one person to produce, often one will need to wait on the other to perform and will need such performance to meet criteria in order for subsequent work to be satisfactory.

Cannot be built with cookie crumbs.

When someone takes broken pieces and attempts to build the Taj Mahal, the result is going to be less than stellar. This is another form of incompetence. If one cannot recognize poor performance in those on whom one depends, one is not knowledgeable enough to do the job correctly and proficiently.

Rather than accepting poor performance from a teammate, one should always advise supervisors of the problem before attempting to make a diamond from paste.

Always Did

Just because the job has always been done poorly is no excuse to continue to do it poorly. Your predecessors are no longer in the company’s employ…that may well be the reason. This falls into Merriam Webster’s second definition of incompetent:

inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose”

When one fails to meet standards based on the past failure of former employees, one is both inadequate and unsuitable for the job at hand.


Work with him before?

Most people consider laziness merely a character flaw; however, it is a form of incompetence. It meets the standard for both portions of the third definition: “lacking the qualities needed for effective action” and “unable to function properly”. Choosing to do the minimum necessary, or less, is incompetence.


More people are to blame for the rise of incompetence than merely the employees and the employers. The consumers have their hands dirty in the whole affair. Oh, not you? Let’s look a little closer, shall we?

Do you know what the job description for a mechanic is? When you have an incompetent mechanic, you risk your life on the road, as well as those of others. Even when you do not know what the parts do, ask to see the ones replaced. A good mechanic will show you the broken or worn portions.

You may need to choose another one.

Do you know what a doctor should do? Probably not. Do you know who does? Another doctor. When you get medical advice which changes your diagnosis, medication or prognosis, ask someone else to verify the results. If you have been being treated for something which should have been temporary for more than three to six months (less for acute illnesses), go to another doctor or hospital.

Do you know what your telephone, internet or entertainment carrier should be providing? If you do not, their incompetence is costing you money. See all of the excuses above for ways you are paying for service you may never get.

Just Say Do It

If you do not stand up against incompetence with everyone who is paid to serve or help you, you are an incompetent consumer. Everyone from the meter reader to the professor is paid to do a job. When they fail to do it to standard, they are being rewarded at your expense. Not paying for it? Think again.

Payroll, which is salary, benefits, retirement, taxes and insurance,  is normally the highest single expense of a business. It is overhead which rarely pays for itself, except in certain sales instances. It directly affects how much you pay for goods and services.

Get the most for your money by demanding those being paid do the job required and do it well. It is another way you can make a difference.


Author’s Note: This post comes on the heels of being treated at a hospital incompetently. It necessitated being admitted at a second hospital within hours of release from the first. Read the paperwork. You have rights.

Have you ever stood up to someone not doing the job? Have you affected change based on your demands or complaints? Have you ever been incompetent? Do you know the cure for incompetence?

© Red Dwyer 2012
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  1. I take a lot of pride in what I do and want to do it well. I have worked with people in the past who do the bare minimum. This is something I challenge teenagers to stop doing as well because it doesn’t help them in life. I try to model excellence and I hope that at the very least my kids do the same.
    Derek Mansker recently posted..The way we serve proclaims who we serve. (part 2)My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 12, 2012

      I have been reading a lot about education lately (again) and am disturbed by the increase in career-centric learning as opposed to balanced learning. While I will not endorse religion in the public sector, I do thing the basics of compassionate interaction are necessary in schools. With the compassionate interaction comes such concepts as integrity, ambition and teamwork. The failure of curricula to adequately address the balance of power with fairness is fueling the “bare minimum” standard.

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