The Art of Showing Pure Incompetence at an Unwanted Task from The Wall Street Journal describes how Steve Crawley avoids doing unwanted tasks assigned to him by feigning lack of knowledge in the field. This has kept him from taking on unwanted tasks, such as organizing the company picnic.
While this made for a humorous read, this is advice I will definitely not follow. In my career, I have come across several employees with the skill of feigning incompetence. Here's why it doesn't (shouldn't) work long term:
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. While feigning incompetence may work once, do it often enough and people figure out what one is doing. As the article points out, eventually, "everyone sees through the false incompetencies," including one's boss.
The less one can do, the higher the chance of becoming obsolete. In today's world of downsizing and higher productivity, jobs requiring limited capability or limited capacity are being eliminated. Thus, people with the most capacity and capability are being retained. It's important that one's organization recognize the breadth and depth of one's capability and understand the amount of one's capacity.
Being flexible and adaptive is a useful skill in today's fast changing world. The only constant in today's world is change. And change happens at a faster pace every year. Being able to take on more new challenges and tasks is a competitive advantage.
Here are some different approaches one can consider to address the issue of additional and sometimes unwanted tasks.
Be the first the volunteer. In my company, there is always additional work to be done. Since one will need to do one of the projects, it's a good idea to be first and choose the project that is the best match.
Recommend an alternate project. It's OK to stop or not do something. However, be ready with an alternative that is better to do for everyone. Doing so will keep the company, boss and oneself happy.
Recommend an alternate leader. If there is someone more qualified, recommend them as a possibility. However, be sure to be genuine when making such a recommendation :-)
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Photo Credit: morgueFile.com, Clara Natoli
This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.
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