Friday, June 17, 2011

Dealing with an Incompetent Co-Worker

Whether you’re a long-time employee or a student who has participated in group assignments, chances are you’ve experienced the frustration and maybe even detrimental effects of working with someone who is incompetent. In many workplace situations, your performance and success can be directly linked to that of a co-worker. So when incompetency rears its ugly head—perhaps in the form of substandard work or missed deadlines—the results can lead to stress and a bigger workload. While every situation is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with incompetence, the following advice may help.

First, Go to the Source

Initially, the fair and professional approach involves trying to resolve the problem directly with the co-worker whose incompetency is a concern. Keep an open mind and approach him/her with honesty and the goal of solving the issue in a way that benefits all parties concerned, including the organization. Keep the conversation fact-based. Cite examples of how certain actions or a lack of action have impacted the project and/or your ability to complete your work successfully. Keep your emotions in check; never be demeaning or disrespectful to your co-worker(s).

Give your co-worker an opportunity to share his/her perspective, and remember, you may not be aware of all the factors influencing your co-worker’s actions. For example, other responsibilities may have produced an unrealistic workload that is preventing your co-worker from putting forth his/her best effort.

By going to your co-worker first, you create a more positive environment for resolving issues and you increase your chances of keeping the working relationship intact.

If Necessary, Engage Your Manager

If the problem remains even after you’ve tried to resolve the issue directly with your co-worker and allowed ample time to let positive change occur, the next step is to engage your manager for guidance. Now, it is even more important that you keep the conversation focused on facts and concrete examples rather than opinions and personality traits. Only mention those things that are jeopardizing the success of the project and your ability to do your best work. Conduct the conversation in private and extend any productive suggestions you might have. Be mindful that you don’t want to come across as whining, tooting your own horn, or having trouble getting along with others.

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