The psychology of human development deals with four stages of competence, ranging from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence. These stages can be used to explain the rationale behind decisions or actions and is as such pretty useful in a business environment, too

When a person is unconscious incompetent, s/he is not aware of the incompetence and even the intuitive feeling about what to do / decisions to make will be wrong (sheer luck ruled out). Conscious incompetent knows that they don’t know and if they still proceed making decisions / recommendations, these will be based on a wrong analysis

It goes without saying that the decisions and recommendations made by the conscious competent will be based on a correct analysis and hence far more reliable than those made by the incompetent persons. When you excel to a degree where you don’t think but unconsciously make the right decisions, you are said to be unconscious competent

Back to work. You will find (un-)conscious incompetent people amongst your colleagues and this is where you should apply the thoughts presented here

If you can spot the incompetent people, you will be able to take necessary countermeasures when you deal with them.

Common countermeasures is preparing more facts and analytics than normal or – at a more altruistic level – spending time with them to bring them to the needed level of competence

The real challenge arises when you’re dealing with incompetent people that are fully aware of their shortcomings but have no interest in changing the status quo – these will continue to fight for what’s wrong simply because that is all they know

Dealing with (hostile) incompetent people typically require the involvement of powerful influencers and stakeholders in the organization, either to apply enough pressure to convince or simply to circumvent

Just a kind reminder; before ranting off and dismissing your (un-)conscious incompetent colleagues as showstoppers or obstructers, try to see the world through their eyes. In the Middle East people are moving whole families to come work for a company which leaves more at stake in the event of a job loss than it does in most other parts of the world. People here therefore tend to protect their turf harder and longer than you’ll see on other continents

This is not an excuse for them nor an acceptance of their behavior. It’s an explanation that might help you deal with them more easy

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