Home » How to Deal With Incompetent Coworkers (Functional Tips)

How to Deal With Incompetent Coworkers (Functional Tips)

There are several kinds of people you will encounter in your workplace. While you have to deal with your bosses and managers regarding essential tasks, most of your time is spent with your coworkers.

They are like your second family. You belong to a team and rely on each other frequently to get the job done.

Hence, it could become a problem when you have to work with coworkers who are incompetent at their work. They often get things wrong and must follow instructions, and the entire team suffers.

However, there is a way to deal with incompetent coworkers without losing your calm and being professional all the time. Yes, it might seem frustrating, and you may even consider reporting them to the manager if their incompetency results in losses.

But before doing any of that, it is vital to consider what might be the reason behind their incompetency. And most importantly, is there anything you can do to improve the situation to benefit the team?

When you start helping each other out, the workplace becomes more pleasant, automatically bringing out the best in people. It makes people more productive, and seeing others doing well will inspire your otherwise incompetent coworkers to do their best.

6 Reasons Your Coworkers Might be Incompetent at Work

Before you dismiss any of your coworkers as utterly incompetent, try to find out why they are inept.

Still, figuring out how to deal with an incompetent coworker? While it is true that some people are not suitable for a job and end up making several mistakes no matter what, sometimes there is a reason behind it as well. Here are some of the possible causes.

1. Lazy or Unfit for the Job

Lazy or Unfit for the Job
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One of the principal reasons why your coworker is incompetent is that they are simply lazy. They don’t want to do their job, and there is nothing you can do. If this continues for an extended period, they will probably get fired.

On the other hand, another reason could be that they don’t want to do the job. Maybe they were forced to take it up because of a lack of other opportunities, but their hearts are just not into the tasks.

In that case, they are bound to do poorly because they do not feel connected to their job and feel unmotivated to perform better.

2. Personality Type

Personality Type
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Your coworker might be naturally shy, anxious, or under-confident. They might have the skills required to do the job, yet their anxious nature gets in their way, making them commit mistakes that are quite avoidable.

They might know what they have to do, yet are bad at communicating, so when they try to say something, it comes out all wrong. They are probably better working alone, and they get flustered when there are too many people around.

They end up making mistakes when a buzzing workplace makes them feel overwhelmed. All these reasons are enough to hinder someone’s concentration and focus, leading to errors that make them look incompetent.

3. Lack of Adequate Training

Lack of Adequate Training
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Sometimes, when the management is pressed for labor, they might hire employees hoping to fill the position, assuming they will learn on the job.

If this employee happens to be your coworker, then it is inevitable that you will see them struggling at their job.

However, if the employee needs more basic training, it will lead to mistakes affecting the team. They need to be equipped more with the skills, but things could be quite different once they learn.

4. New to the Industry

New to the Industry
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Another reason a coworker could improve at their job is that they are probably new to the industry. This often happens when people switch careers a few days down the line and try to do things afresh.

However, they were used to doing things a certain way in their previous sector, and it could take some time for them to settle down at the new job.

They might come across as incompetent, but after spending some time in the new job, they could learn what was required to excel at it.

5. Change of Work Culture

Change of Work Culture
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If you have a new and incompetent coworker in your team, they could face issues acclimatizing to the new work culture. This often happens when one has changed cities or countries to join a new workplace.

Your coworker might need to be used to certain things and how they are done, and failing to address them takes a toll on their performance. Give them some time and see if things get better with time after they have settled into their jobs.

6. Personal Issues

Personal Issues
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Another reason coworkers might constantly be making mistakes is that they might be plagued with personal issues.

Maybe something in their personal lives distracted them, and they could not focus on the job. This leads to mistakes that can disrupt their performance as a whole and make them come across as incompetent.

Give it a few weeks and see if it passes, especially if your coworker was doing well before and the deterioration in performance has been a recent phenomenon. This indicates that the coworker is not incompetent but could be influenced by an external factor.

Some Tips to Help You Get Along With Your Incompetent Coworkers

It is important to remember that only some of your coworkers will have the same degree of efficiency. Make some allowances for those who have yet to reach their potential. Here are some tips for dealing with incompetent coworkers.

1. Offer to Help

Offer to Help
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Instead of criticizing your incompetent coworker, offer to help them when they struggle with their work. Please give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know any better.

Sometimes, a little push in the right direction is all they need, and when they see someone offering help, they often set aside their inhibitions and try to step up. By contributing to help, you can give them the support they need to do well.

2. Suggest Training Courses

It could be that your incompetent coworker is more active than you thought. They may need the necessary skills to do well in their assigned job.

Maybe they were hired to fill a position, but their skills need to match the job description. You can suggest training courses to help them pick up the valuable skills. Training specifically for the job can help them learn new techniques that will make them more competent.

3. Take the Lead

Take the Lead
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When dealing with incompetent coworkers, try to step up and take the lead instead of getting frustrated with them. Yes, you may have to shoulder some extra responsibilities but take it as a learning opportunity to hone your leadership skills.

Sometimes, the seemingly incompetent coworkers might be too overwhelmed, and someone else taking the lead can give them some time to get their bearings right. They could bounce back after a while, and in the meantime, you get to be the hero!

4. Suggest Changing Responsibilities

One of the reasons your coworker comes across as incompetent is that they are not cut out for the tasks they have been assigned. Maybe they would do well in another department or a different role.

You could suggest to your seniors to change the work allocation or reassign the responsibilities, and there could be some improvement.

5. Give Specific Instructions

Give Specific Instructions
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While dealing with an incompetent coworker, give them specific instructions. Ask them to make to-do lists and create bullet points. Set clear goals and objectives and make sure they track their progress.

Maybe the coworker needs adequate organizational skills and messes things up while dealing with the different tasks. Giving specific instructions and telling them to follow a step-by-step work approach can help.

6. Appreciate Their Contribution

Sometimes, all that your incompetent coworker needs is a little word of encouragement. Maybe they are too nervous and keep making mistakes out of anxiety and a desire to be perfect.

Instead of reprimanding them for their faults, be a supportive colleague and encourage them for the things they get right. Once they see their potential, they will try to step up and achieve more. It will also make them eager to take on more responsibilities.

7. Avoid Conflict

Avoid Conflict
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Whatever you do, please do not get into a conflict with your coworker by blaming them for incompetency. That would create needless workplace drama, and no one would benefit. You would also come across as aggressive, and your superior would also scrutinize your behavior.

If you always have to pick up the slack due to your coworker’s incompetency, speak to your manager separately. Document all the instances where your coworker went wrong, and leave it to the boss to decide. But try to stay out of the conflict yourself.

8. Do Not Isolate

Isolating your coworker because you feel they are incompetent will not help the team. It will also relegate them to the background, and they will miss the opportunity to learn by seeing their more efficient colleagues.

Instead, allow them to get to know you and how things are done at the company. You can ask them to work with one of the senior members of the team, and unless they are naturally lazy, they will try to perform better by learning from the others.

Points to Remember While Dealing With Incompetent Coworkers

No matter what happens, you should always maintain professional decorum while dealing with your colleagues. Here are some points you must remember while dealing with incompetent coworkers.

  • Do not use demeaning language with your incompetent coworkers. That will only undermine their confidence and self-esteem and lead to greater mistakes. 
  • Please do not lose your patience and yell at them. That will reflect poorly on your character and will be detrimental to your career.
  • Refrain from trying to get your coworker fired. If they are terminated, it should be your manager’s call.
  • Refrain from talking behind your coworker’s back who is making mistakes. You don’t know what they might be going through, which is very unprofessional.
  • Refrain from forming preconceived notions about your new coworkers based on their initial performance. 
  • Although your share of work is always the priority, try to help your coworkers as much as possible. This will enhance team spirit and also improve the team’s performance in the long run. 


Do not think that looking after your coworker’s performance is not your responsibility.

Yes, it is not a priority, but if the team keeps performing poorly because of them, it will also hinder your performance. You will find that the team’s performance is also affecting your promotions.

Hence, do not let someone else’s faults get in your career. If you need to help your coworkers a little to achieve the best results, then do it.

It will all come around because someday, there may come the point when you might need the assistance of your coworkers as well, and you will be glad that you received the help you needed.