Is one of your coworkers driving you crazy? Perhaps a client or a vendor you’re working with completely dropped the ball. Ugh! Why are so many people bad at their jobs?!
Playwright Jean-Paul Sartre has a famous line in one of his plays, “Hell is other people.” Ha! That quote is spot on, especially in the context of work. Too often people make things overcomplicated and frustrating. Or they simply don’t do what they are supposed to do.
We’ve all had days when other people didn’t show up, made a mistake, or did something that caused unnecessary stress. It truly sucks when our stress goes up because of other people. So, let’s get some answers to why are so many people bad at their jobs?
Hell Is Other People
When I originally wrote this post in 2014, I was so fed up with some of my colleagues. Their bad choices and errors led to problems that impacted my clients. And because of those problems, I got yelled at by angry clients. It was maddening.
But even after leaving that company, I still run into so many scenarios where I just start shaking my head about how so many people are bad at their jobs!
When I was a manager, I had to deal with a wide range of employees. I took my responsibility very seriously. And I tried very hard to support each of my team members while also protecting the needs of the business.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of managers in jobs across the globe who don’t show this type of care or compassion.
Many have no clue what their employees are doing or how they are performing. If you’re unaware, indifferent, and unable to properly support a team, things can quickly spiral out of control. These type of folks make doing business difficult and inefficient.
So, why are so many people bad at their jobs? Here are 5 main reasons I’ve come up with based on several of my recent experiences.
5 Reasons So Many People Are Bad At Their Jobs
1. Total Incompetence
I worked with a guy once who simply didn’t have the skills nor the brain power to do his job. He definitely tried hard and was nice. But, at the end of the day, he just couldn’t perform the skills required for his job. Keep in mind this was after extensive group training, meetings, and one-on-one training.
Unfortunately, in the end he was let go. It sucks to be in a situation when someone genuinely wants to improve, but can’t meet the job requirements in a reasonable time frame. But, sometimes people just don’t have the ability to meet the expectations and requirements of their role. And their manager has to recognize this and take action.
What’s worst though are people who are totally incompetent and have no desire to learn and improve their skills. Sure, we all make mistakes – that’s unavoidable and forgivable if it’s infrequent.
But when someone makes mistakes repeatedly, develops an attitude, and doesn’t learn from their own errors, that’s unacceptable incompetence. I had to let a guy go for that once. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. Nor did I want to have to put him through that. But things got so much better once he was gone.
Surely you’ve worked with or hired someone who ended up being incompetent. It’s unfortunate, but a reality that explains why some people just aren’t good at their jobs.
2. MIA And Unreachable
Why else are so many people bad at their jobs? Because they don’t show up when they’re supposed to! It amazes me how some people think it’s appropriate to just not show up to work. They don’t call in, they don’t pick up the phone, they don’t respond to emails or texts. And they always have some lame excuse when they eventually decide to show up again.
For example. I had a short term contract worker once who would show up to work a couple days in a row, mind you at least 1-2 hours later than he was supposed to. And then as soon as he got a payment towards his contract, he would disappear and be completely unreachable for days.
Sadly, I suspected he had a drug and alcohol addiction. He had a state required ignition interlock device installed in his car due to prior DUIs. And, it really seemed like he went on binges as soon as he got any kind of money in his hands. Needless to say, his didn’t complete his contract. We had to let him go after giving him way more second chances than he deserved.
It’s unfortunate when some people are so disrespectful that they are several hours tardy to work. Or, they don’t even show up and are totally unreachable on top of that. And this happens a lot! I’m sure you’ve dealt with people like that before. I certainly have on multiple occasions. It is incredibly frustrating and annoying. You simply can’t get ahead trying to conduct business that way.
3. Lies And Excuses
Now let’s look at another big reason why so many people are bad at their jobs. It’s because they lie, don’t take responsibility for their actions, and make too many excuses.
Have you ever worked with someone who habitually lies and is constantly coming up with lame excuses? One woman I worked with never owned up to her mistakes. She always tried to pass the buck and put the blame on someone else. It was only a matter of time before she was let go.
Here are some of the worst and most annoying excuses and lies I’ve heard from people:
- “What emails? I didn’t receive them.” (Liar!)
- “I lost my phone and the battery died. That’s why I didn’t call you back.” (For 3 days?!)
- “Sorry I can’t come into work today, I’m sick.” (Yeah right if it’s the day before/after a holiday, vacation, night out.)
- “Yes I’m happy with my job.” (Then why did I find your resume on the printer?)
- “We are running late because the delivery truck broke down.” (Shut up, twice in the same week?)
- “There was an accident on the highway.” (Come on, just admit you are late for your interview.)
- “I never agreed to that.” (Yes you did. You signed the contract!)
- “I’m running late because my bus/train was late.” (It’s you that’s late 4x a week, not the bus.)
- “I didn’t do it.” (Yes you did. Do you think I’m blind? I just saw you.)
- “I checked my work.” (Ha. No you didn’t because it’s full of errors.)
- “It’s his/her fault. I wasn’t any part of it.” (Seriously? Take responsibility for your team!)
- “Yes I know how to do xyz.” (I know you’re lying because you can’t give me any details.)
- “You never told me to do that.” (Give me a break. Admit that you forgot!)
Oh man I could keep going on for hours with examples, but you get the idea. Business works so much better when people own up to their faults and mistakes, learn from them, and move forward. It baffles me that so many people just don’t get that.
“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
4. Bad Attitude
We’ve all interacted with people who have terrible attitudes at work. They don’t give a crap about the consequences and affects on those around them. A lot of the time they’re miserable and angry because they blame everyone and everything for their own unhappiness and problems. They aren’t receptive to feedback, they tend to have all of the above issues, and are unwilling to change their ways.
This problem arises in all levels too. I know a senior guy who heads a department, but he’s totally unwilling to collaborate with any other teams to improve some significant issues for the business. We all know plenty of entry level and middle management employees who are angry at the world and have terrible customer service. It’s a wonder they still hold a job.
I had a bus driver once who refused to tell me the end destination for the route she was driving when I boarded the bus. She forced me to get off the bus and look at the sign outside on the front of the bus. I was so annoyed. She knew exactly where she was headed, but she intentionally made it difficult for me to get the answer.
Another situation I ran into recently was a restaurant owner who was totally unwilling to compensate me for a bad service experience. One of the easiest ways to resolve situations like that is to offer a partial discount or future credit. But this guy wouldn’t budge an inch even after I offered multiple suggestions. The end result is I left a bad review for the restaurant on Yelp and will never go there again.
5. Careless & Can’t Follow Directions
The last main answer to why are so many people bad at their jobs? is because they don’t check their work and can’t follow directions! Instructions are made for a reason, but most people never bother reading them.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve given out specific, clear directions that didn’t get followed. People either ignored them, misread them, or lost them.
You’d think that it’s second nature and common sense to always check your work. Yet so many people fail to do this every single day.
Rushing, not thinking about what you’re doing, taking shortcuts, and disregarding protocols causes so many unnecessary headaches and fallouts. I wish more people would realize this and take ownership of their work.
Why Are So Many People Bad At Their Jobs?!
The manager in me will always get frustrated when I have to deal with someone who is bad at their job. And now that I’m a parent, I want to instill a strong work ethic in my children. I strongly hope they grow up to be kind, productive members of society.
But even as much as we work hard to be good at our own jobs, we’re still going to come across people who are bad at theirs. So what can we do to avoid bad experiences with people who have the above issues?
- Refuse to accept crappy customer service
- Take pictures and save whatever proof you can
- Escalate to their boss or their boss’s boss
- Write about the bad experiences on Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Don’t delay firing someone if they are causing too many issues
- Draft and sign contracts, and sign revisions if things change
- Know your rights and take legal action if necessary
- Research and do background checks before hiring anyone
- Utilize fraud protection to get your money back if a business or contractor cheats you
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Untemplaters, why are so many people bad at their jobs?! How often do you deal with problem employees and crappy customer service? What’s the lamest excuse or lie someone has given you? How did you resolve one of your worst experiences with an incompetent worker?
Copyright 2014, updated 2023. Original content and photography authorized only to appear on Untemplater.com. Thank you for reading!
I guess some people just don’t care, as long as they get paid. They’re really bad for business.
I hope your talking about retail stores and government. Well for retail stores it’s high school people. For the government well its complacent people who hate their jobs. If you took sociology 101 everyone hates their freaking job. Unless, they’re getting paid for what they like doing. In this economy that’s isn’t going to happen.
There are crap ton of terrible customers.
Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says
I think there are two types of people: people who don’t have the skill set for the job they are in but would be suited to another job just fine, and people who have crappy attitudes that leach down in to every job so will never do well.
Myles Money says
Laziness, incompetence and an inability to take responsibility. The good news is that helps the rest of us stand out from the crowd and shine just by being reliable and good at what we do. 🙂
Poor Student says
I can see that some people are not motivated enough to do the work properly — maybe because they hate the job or hate their co-workers — so I guess there is a bigger issue than being a naturally annoying individual. I feel bad for incompetent people who actually work hard but can’t keep up with their work. They might actually can success given the right position and job requirements you know, but I know that businesses need the work done in timely manner.
LeisureFreak Tommy says
Your article brought back some forgotten feelings I had suppressed from my first career and at least I can see it is a shared frustration. There was always a percentage of entitled worthless employees who could get out of everything and anything. Where I worked as an engineer it was always “Fix it Fast I don’t care by who” attitude and of course a success was always a shared team success, including the worthless. It all starts with your leadership. If they don’t dare rock the entitled employee boat because the work can and will be pushed to the competent and still get done then you have to continually deal with these people. My second career was mostly consultants and all professional. Even some of then who didn’t fit-in for various reasons but were still top-notch were dismissed to keep their team vision so it was never the same issue as my fist career about folks simply showing up to the premise and being retired in place.
This was a fun read. I’ve worked in the food industry and medical industry and it’s still the same. Some people just don’t care and don’t want to put in the effort to do something different no matter how many times you tell them. I think coming in late consistently especially tells a lot about a person and their work habits.
We have had to deal with technical professions on our land development, architects, engineers, … generally, people about 50 do a great job and are thorough, and the young ones think they know it all and are all talking and no doing.
I’d say for employees it is mostly the lack of incentive. You don’t get much more for doing the job properly, if anything. The more stable your job (government, union) the worse you can get if you don’t want to work, and no one will fire you.
It is hard to find someone who enjoys their job and hence does it well.
Yeah inexperienced people tend to talk a lot and fail to execute more often than older workers. But there are also a fair number of disgruntled older employees are also terrible at their jobs.
That’s so true about super stable jobs having a lot of bad employees because they aren’t afraid of getting fired.
Black Bart says
I dont think age is much of a factor at all. Technology has turned things upside-down. The 22 year old out of college on my right is always answering the most simplistic questions from the 52 year old guy on my left about our CRM that could be googled in 30 seconds. I am in my mid 30s, so I avoid this conversation altogether by burying my face into my screen or talking on phantom phone calls. Is it dickish that i play-act like a 9 year old? Yup. Do i care? Nope. This isn’t grade school. If you can’t figure out a basic operation on the system you said you could use at near expert levels in your interview, then, to use an acronym from my little brothers generation: GTFU. If you cant operate at that basic level of integrity after 2o or 30 years at work, you shouldn’t be in the job. A fighter pilot can’t sort of know how to fly a plane and a doctor can’t almost know medicine. Have some pride and dignity. Know your job and stop pestering your coworkers with 6 questions per day that 3 min of google research can uncover.
Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com says
People hate taking responsibility for their own shortcomings. Rather than work to improve, they’d rather complain about others and management. People are very unmotivated and quick to pass the blame!
yeah it’s so annoying!
Zee @ Work To Not Work says
At my work I’m designated to train a new employee. For some reason he’s always giving me excuses as to why he doesn’t have time to sit down with me to learn the bigger parts of his job. He’s always got these smaller unimportant tasks from others which keep him from actually doing what he needs to do.
Keep in mind, I’m not his manager, I’m merely the co-worker that he’s supposed to be shadowing during his training period. I’m supposed to be showing him the job and assigning him some of the easier tasks related to the specific project I’m working on. I give him enough rope to let him show me if he’s eager to learn and can do his job or if he’s going to hang himself. When he does get things done it takes him about 8 times longer than it should. literally 8 times longer, 1 hour tasks somehow take all day.
I find that this new employee acts like I did at jobs that I hated. When I hated jobs I would barely show up on time and be wiped out and exhausted from being out to late. For jobs that I cared about I would make sure I wasn’t that guy dosing off in meetings, and that’s exactly how this guy seems to be treating things.
All I can do is report to our manager that I’m trying to show him but he keeps avoiding work. I think the biggest problem is that my manager is a new manager so he doesn’t know how to handle the situation. He knows that he needs to talk to him but since he’s never had to be in that situation before he feels awkward and doesn’t know how to do it. I also think that my new manager was given this title of manager but doesn’t have any real power that comes with the job. He was never given the carrot or the stick so if I want a raise I have to ask him and then it goes up 3 levels before a decision is made. Also, he doesn’t have the power to fire this new guy that we still can’t really assign work to after he’s been here for 4 months.
I think it’s been long enough that this guy should be fired for just not being able to perform the job. But on the other hand his manager has yet to give him any sign that we are not happy with his performance and try to work out how to fix it. Since the manager hasn’t done his job it’s hard to fire someone who, as far as he knows, is doing just fine.
Oh boy that is not an easy situation to be in. You’re doing the right thing by passing feedback to your manager, but that is so frustrating that your manager doesn’t know how to handle the situation. Yeah the manager needs to have a performance discussion with that guy asap. Hang in there and keep poking your manager about it and hopefully things will get better soon!
Financial Samurai says
Laziness I think is the key. Being too lazy not to be thorough enough to check your work, check with your clients, check with your colleagues.
I don’t think people are stupid. Because most jobs are very straight forward. Problems arise when people don’t give it their best, and call in sick because they partied too hard the night before.
When it’s a job, you don’t give as big of a crap if it was your own business.
Yeah I think laziness is a culprit way more often than stupidity. And yes it’s true that when you have your own skin in the game running your own business, you can’t afford to make excuses or be lazy.
Financial Samurai says
Apathy is the other word I was looking for. If someone robs a store, and you are the clerk getting $10 an hour…. why risk your life or your health for running after the robber or putting up a fight?
It’s understandable to be apathetic when you don’t care about the company’s mission, and the pay isn’t inspiring.
Black Bart says
This is a great point FS. (Cool blog BTW). The people I hang out with have worked corporate gigs for years making decent $, but none of us have ever found our jobs inspiring. We are dedicated people who do good work and add a lot of value, but at the end of the day, no matter how great the company is, no matter how nice your boss is, no matter how competitve the pay, you’re just… not… that… into… it. You always sense there’s a larger world outside the 4 office walls. I have become 100% convinced that the solution is solo or small group entrepreneurship. If you have any discernable talent that can be marketed to a targeted audience, do it now. Sydney, the owner of this blog did it. I started a small business and it earns about 40k per year, which is not enough to maintain our lifestyle, so i am also working other ideas. Taking yourself outside the corporate bureaucracy frees you up from cumbersome, clunky rules and also, as this article points out correctly, eliminates incompetent people from getting in your way of reaching maximum performance levels. Let’s face it… except for the very few, the corporate world does not provide safety, security, chances to rise up, and great, great pay. It provides you with just enough to keep you coming back day after day to listen to their cultish propaganda around their products and services. Can everyone really be the “best in their industry 4 years running”? As soon as my side gigs pay enough, I am leaving the corporate beast forever. But until then…. i need to practice screwing on my perma smile and acting like one of the politically correct zombies who run the place. Talking points: weather. Check. Brand of car. Check. Brand of watch and clothes. Check. Naive, sheltered suburban worldview. Check. Ok…. here we go! Me: “Mornin’ boys! How was your weekend?” The gleam of my permasmile is so bright, it could outshine the sun on a warm April day.
Great article and I wish all new grads would read it. I used to work at NASA, supporting the space missions. The astronaut’s lives depended upon us doing our job well. We had strict rules about never making excuses – you learned to accept responsibility, even when it didn’t seem right or fair. I know that’s made me a better employee.
Oh wow that’s cool you used to work for NASA. Yeah I can imagine that environment had a lot of serious protocols that left no room for people to slack off or make excuses. Having anyone’s lives at hand is serious business.
debs @ debtdebs says
I had to fire an employee for incompetence once. He was good in the interview but when it came down to execution, he couldn’t accomplish what needed to be done. Plus he turned out to be a bad fit for the team, who determined pretty quickly that he didn’t know what he was doing. I felt bad for missing any hint of his lack of deep knowledge, but was relieved when the situation was corrected. So nice to have personal recommendations from people you know before hiring some people.
I know exactly what you went through! Not a pleasant experience, but things get so much better once we can face the bad situation and find a way to put it to bed and move on.