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How People Accidentally Seem Incompetent at Work

Bad habits at the workplace can erode your personal brand and lead to fewer responsibilities at work, and even dismissal. Gain the approval of your supervisor and colleagues by avoiding these pitfalls that make professionals sound unable to perform in their role.

Repeating other peoples' ideas

Aside from garnering the hatred of the colleague who originally had the idea, repeating others' ideas can make your manager question your integrity and wonder how many of your ideas were actually yours and what you're really contributing to the company. At best, it shows a lack of listening skills or a slowness to comprehend your colleagues' ideas as you put the pieces together and naturally attribute the idea to yourself.

Avoid this by listening carefully to what is discussed in the company that relates to your role and resisting the urge to take credit for an idea in order to get a quick pay-off at the expense of your long-term reputation and relationships.

Showing up late and leaving early

Some of your coworkers may view you as apathetic, others will assume you're overwhelmed by your role; however, both will view the contribution you make to your team with a critical eye.

Avoid this by respecting the hours you've been hired to work unless you work in a role where you are given a highly flexible schedule.

Pitching ideas that don't help the company improve

Sometimes our pet projects and interests can lead to a valuable contribution on the team, but sometimes we can be so wed to our own interests that we become blind to the fact that they won't help the bottom line and don't align with the company's vision.

Avoid this by defending a good idea, but keeping a critical eye on how scale-able the project is and how much benefit the company can truly expect.

Showing a disdain for technology

While embracing new technology may not have been a requirement in the past, rejecting it today can have serious consequences in the tasks that your supervisor and colleagues can trust you to do. There is no excuse for lacking keyboard skills, familiarity with Microsoft Products, and common sense with basic IT problems.

Avoid this by funding your own course when the skills that your employer reasonably expected you to have were fudged on your resume.

Putting themselves down

While being self-deprecating can help show your human-side and can make for a great laugh, you can quickly sound incompetent when your jokes come at your own work's expense.

Avoid this by being careful that your self-deprecating jokes don't get focused on your (lack) of professionalism or skill.

Staying silent at the wrong moments

While it may be tempting to ride out meetings without saying a word and offering short, non-committal answers when asked for your input, flying under the radar to this degree can make your colleagues question how much you really know about the job you were hired to do.

Avoid this by getting comfortable speaking up at meetings - perhaps by preparing what you would like to say ahead of time. Luckily, the world is gaining a greater awareness and appreciation for introverts and if you're unable to get the confidence to speak up at meetings, make sure that you convey your ideas through emails or more private communication with your colleagues.

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Last updated: 01 Mar 2019

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