Five Ways Managers Breed Incompetence

Last Updated Apr 8, 2009 7:58 AM EDT

  • The Find: If you've got incompetent employees the fault may not all lie with them; there are a handful of ways managers commonly breed incompetence in their teams.
  • The Source: The Business Pundit blog.
The Takeaway: No manager wants to push his or her employees towards incompetence, but one blog argues that many unwittingly do just that nonetheless. Recently, Business Pundit outlined some of the most common reasons for a creeping increase in incompetence, empowering managers to tear these causes out by the roots. Are you guilty of managing in any of these ways that may breed incompetence on your team?
  1. Using numbers as the only device to measure performance.
  2. Spreading workers too thin: cost-cutting is an essential component of survival, but it's also a quick and dirty way to overburden competent employees, thus breeding incompetence... If staff must be cut, companies need to make a bigger effort to help remaining employees stay competent. Is there room in the budget for contractors? How about telecommuting, which would take some of the travel burden off the employee?
  3. Expecting too much, too soon: many bright-eyed employees enter new jobs with gusto, then fizzle after months of not seeing the results they'd hoped for. Managers who expect employees to know everything from the outset grow impatient when they have to answer too many questions.... Unless it's clear from the outset that the person has to hit the ground running, set scalable performance goals.
  4. Putting a bigger premium on politics than performance: put a premium on what the employee is doing for the company, not on his social network. Don't mistake personal affinity for organizational benefit.
  5. Rewarding mediocrity: Imagine you're a gung-ho new hire employee at Franklin Widgets, Inc. You come into the job ready to make an impactâ€"until you notice that everyone spends most of their time staring slack-jawed at Facebook. After you realize you're safe from managerial scrutiny, you join them. Why should you work hard if nobody else is? The onus is on managers to create a sense of urgency.
(Image of employee hard at work by EDgAr H., CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.