Every job involves tedious administrative tasks and tiresome procedures. If you’ve ever worked with someone who just can’t seem to get the hang of those tasks and procedures, and never seems to get around to mastering them because “you do them so much better,” you might be dealing with what’s known as strategic incompetence.
- Is it intentional avoidance, or genuine difficulty? People with executive function issues may struggle to perform or prioritize tasks appropriately. Some absorb oral instructions better than written ones, or vice versa. And, of course, some tasks just take time and repetition to master at one’s own pace.
- Why should they care about doing it your way? Does their bad work hinder other people downstream, result in a substandard product or pose a threat to the employer? If not, is it possible you’re overinvested?
- How can you redirect consequences to the responsible party? While it would be nice if perfection were everyone’s baseline goal, if there is no significant benefit to doing it right or disadvantage to doing it wrong, there’s no incentive for them to care more — especially if they know someone else will take care of it. If you’re not in a position to enforce performance standards on someone you suspect of underperforming, then you may have to be a bit strategic about your own response — for example, by being less available or setting new boundaries. Bear in mind, flexibility and transparency are still important; covertly setting someone up to fail makes you part of the problem.