9 Signs You Are Incompetent At Work (And What To Do About It)

Last updated on November 10th, 2022 at 06:50 pm

Feeling incompetent at work shows that you’re serious about your work and career.

Such feelings are common during the first few months after joining a new job.

But, even after being in this work for long, constant failing to perform at the expected level is one of the signs that you are incompetent at work.

Plus, there are more signs to consider first to know how to deal with incompetence at work.


How do you know if you are incompetent at work?

It’s exciting to take on new challenges and be at a new place.

But, not every time. 

Sometimes, it comes with a whole lot of dedication, hard work, and great responsibility. Which you probably aren’t ready for yet.  

You may be promoted faster if you have worked under the same manager or boss for a long time.

But, when you’re not ready for the new roles or the extra responsibility, as your boss expects or thinks…

You end up feeling incomplete employee, in the end.    

Even, no matter how excited you were after hearing that ‘you’re selected for this job’, for the first few weeks or months it feels as though you’re not qualified. 

These feelings generally occur when you start a new job, leaving the one that you’re used to.

Or after being promoted into an important position, leaving average or lower-level work. 

There’s no need to feel pressured, since you’re the only one feeling it, Right now. 

When you feel incompetent at your job, it means that you are a good, loyal and dedicated employee. The one who has just failed to provide the best results, but not a lazy one. 

If this is the case, you can ask for help from your superior.

Before that, you definitely want to verify if you are incompetent at work or not.


9 Signs you are incompetent at work

Anytime you feel that you’re unqualified and not ready enough for a certain role, check out the signs which help you to figure out why you feel so.

Then you can take the necessary steps to improve your skills and so performance.  

1. You always need more time, more information, and extra help.

It always takes some time to get used to the new work environment and learn new things. 

Check, Is it just an excuse to avoid doing extra work? Or do you need some time and training?

In case you prefer to avoid responsibility, that means you’re not a good manager who is either lazy, intimidated, or not passionate enough. 

By avoiding such responsibility, you are also damaging your reputation at work, even as a new employee. 

Remember, not being able to meet the quality work standard in a given time and condition is nothing but signs of incompetence at work.  

2. You feel uncomfortable asking someone for help.

Particularly in a new job, it’s difficult to adjust to the new mindsets and environment. 

It’s normal to misunderstand certain words and jargon when you’re in a new place.

It could be your shy nature or inability to connect with others, but that causes you to feel uneasy and uncomfortable at work.

That results in, feeling afraid of asking for help because you believe that the people around you will make fun of you. 

Such signs tell you to feel incompetent here due to nothing, but fear of being judged. 

Check other: Signs Your Boss Wants To Replace You

3. You hesitate to express your viewpoint clearly.

You’re new here, and hesitating to express your genuine point is alright.

Here that you want to take some time to understand the company and team culture, before making your point. 

Also, you don’t know how the system works here.

That prevents you from expressing your truthful opinion or view. 

An inability to cope with the new environment or not having enough knowledge are signs that you are incompetent at work.

4. You have been doing the same work for a long time.

Being in the same role will be fine if you enjoy a comfortable job with fewer challenges.  

In contrast, those that want to move forward in their careers and take on more challenges to sharpen their professional skills feel demotivated by this. 

Your colleagues are getting promoted or appraised, but not you. 

Simply put, your boss sees you as a loyal and dedicated employee but also knows that you’re not qualified to be promoted. 

It is possible that the company has no extra work for you but keeps you at your job, which has neither a positive nor negative effect on the company. 

All of such are signs of incompetent employees who may not be fired, but may not receive promotions or appraisals either.

Check other: Signs Of Poor Management In A Company

5. You always have to prove something to others.

You want to attract attention and appear important to management. 

You’re likely in a role or position in which you don’t feel entirely confident.

However, in your current situation, you have no other choice but to keep it. 

Being an incompetent manager, you prefer to pass the blame on to your team when something goes wrong.

Same as, you also come forward to take credit of the teamwork, even though your contribution is none. 

Having such signs of incompetence informs management and your team that you’re not reliable.  

6. You are faking your understanding or performance.

You may have trouble with this since you are trying to hide your incompetence. 

Understandably, you’re hesitant to ask for help and feel shy in this environment. 

But remember that this place is new and different from what you are used to.

Even though you’re qualified, you’re new here. 

If you hide something like your skills or understanding, that means you avoid being judged on your competence.

Faking your capabilities might seem like a smart choice, but that presents you as an incompetent employee.  

Check other: Signs You’ve a Great Boss Who is A Leader

7. You are demoted to a lower profile or a similar position.

Most of your colleagues and fellow employees are promoted upward, but you are not. 

Having extra work and responsibilities is rewarding.

It shows you are considered valuable to the company and that your boss trusts your abilities

In contrast, here you see that your work and responsibilities are decreased or you’re demoted to a job role as per your limits. 

These are the signs you’re an incompetent employee, which a company does not value at all. 

8. You work enough to stay in the company and to avoid being fired.

You are very well aware of what you do and how you are doing in the company. 

Here, you are a lazy manager or employee who is just trying to justify his position within the company rather than doing his best work. 

In fact, you don’t have much excitement or passion for new challenges. 

Your goal is to hold the position and refrain from working at your peak. Thinking, this might lead to a higher expectation of you.

Working with such a goal to retain own position are clear signs of incompetent employees who are qualified but lazy employees who never provide any good to the company. 

Check other: Signs Your Boss Feels Intimidated By You

9. You received the deadlines from the boss or manager to prove your competence.

Here is your last chance from management or your boss. 

After giving you every chance and all the support, when you still cannot perform to your optimum, they have no other option but to give the final warning. 

If you recently have final notice from your boss or a deadline to meet a certain level in the given time limits, take these as an ultimatum. 

Also, it’s time to have your next job option ready before that.

These are the most definite signs informing you that you are an incompetent employee who is about to get fired. 


When you are feeling incompetent at work…

Feeling incompetent is fine, as long as you try but fail most of the time.

It’s the realization of your limits. It clearly shows that you’re not like a lazy or irresponsible employee who just doesn’t like to work. 

However, you want to do your best here, but it will not yield the results you expected. 

Perhaps you need to change your approach to work or need some guidance from your superiors or experts. 

Want to know how to deal with incompetence at work then here are some of the best things to do:

A. You don’t have to be perfect. 

When you’re just getting started, don’t force yourself to be perfect. 

Trying to impress others and look great is the most common mistake new joinees make, due to their discomfort

Relax, no one is judging you. You are new to the place and need to learn a lot. 

B. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance. 

Feeling hesitant to ask for help again prevents you from growing in your career and life. 

If your junior excels at some skills, don’t be afraid to learn from them. Asking for help and learning from others is nothing to be ashamed of. 

But, faking your abilities always does more harm than good. 

Check other: Warning Signs of a Dangerous Person

C. Take responsibility for your failures and incompetence. 

When you fail and learn from it, that’s actually a win for you. 

Definitely, there are plenty of things to learn and adjust Therefore, never hesitate to take on more challenges and new tasks, because they will help you to improve. 

The best way to deal with failure is to accept that it was your responsibility. 

D. Show you want to improve and are ready to work harder. 

Don’t give excuses; show you’re willing to learn. Be the change.

When your boss or manager shares their expectations with you, and you want something like a simplified explanation or conditions, then ask for it. 

Your superior may have some perception of you that you are unaware of.

Being honest about your learning and skills will help you leave an impression of a trustworthy employee, one who isn’t faking it, but is confident about himself. 

Better to discuss it with them upfront than to be overconfident.

Check other: Signs of Disrespectful Boss

E. Start working on something you’re confident and competent at. 

No matter how hard you try, you know deep down whether this work is fit for you or not.

You don’t have to be afraid of accepting your limitations. We are all limited in some way. But, that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

If you’re not good at something, find something you are.

It’s just that you’re in the wrong profession or job

It is best to accept your limits confidently and find work that suits your skills and nature. 

Lastly, if you find more signs from the list, you are an incompliant employee who needs to be trained well before working harder. 

This time, with expert guidance and good strategies. 

Don’t give up and don’t try to look perfect… especially when you know you’re a learner.


When you avoid making mistakes, you eventually make one.

When you want to learn and grow with every challenge, you then work on yourself and can eventually achieve excellence.