Is It Possible to Hide Incompetence and Contribute Nothing At Work?

Hiding incompetence is nearly impossible in startups and smaller agencies but is quite apparent in large enterprise corporations.

Slacking and successfully hiding incompetence is possible when:

  • The processes are slow – lack of performance reviews, 6-month long sprints, tons of time spent on R&D, validation, testing
  • Teams are large – dozens of people working on the same project
  • There are several layers of management – helps with mixed reviews and broadcasting the required skills or reports to each member in a different manner
  • Management assigns unclear and vague tasks – the ability to ask for help at all times (without needed), indicating progress without making such
  • Some self-driven rockstars are eager to solve each and every problem and tackle an insurmountable number of challenges

An incompetent employee can easily dodge a bullet by asking team members for help, posting clarification comments all the time, reporting non-quantifiable progress, and indicating success with R&D which isn’t applicable at work and the like.

It could easily happen with poor management, lack of efficiency guidelines, the unwillingness of the management team to keep investing in their staff.

Some corporations get extremely focused on retention, personal and professional development, and talent leadership. They would go above and beyond in order to retain their staff and receive glowing reviews on Glassdoor (which could backfire, too).

Some of those incompetent employees tackle different activities that are outside of their job description but help the organization. Think of documentation, sending candid feedback, and requesting internal training courses that benefit the entire team. By supporting the business in different areas, they could stick around for a while despite their mediocre skills.

Having said that, it’s certainly possible, but rarely sustainable. Businesses run out of money, change management, outsource to a cheaper location, or reduce their headcount while preparing for an exit.

Sure, some folks successfully job-hop a few times without putting too much effort into learning development. But, it’s a gamble and can leave you unemployed for good.