Wanted! Successful Company Seeking Inept Engineers

chaotica laughing with a slogan on ineptitudeWelcome to the third installment of engineer typologies!  I previously discussed shy and asshole engineers, and now I will discuss incompetent engineers.  In many areas of an organization, incompetence is something that everyone hates, yet for some reason do very little about.  Yes, there is the necessary due process that must come in order to remove someone from an organization, but not always is the situation so obvious as simply seeing someone and removing them.  In fact, the type I’m referring to today is that person who comes into the interview before they are hired wearing a three-piece suit, ready and waiting for the questions to begin.

They show you a face that is truly telling of their obvious worth and they have the charisma to back it up.  They tell you all of the skills they know they are excellent at, adequately answer all questions posed to them, and then half-way through, you begin to drool (figuratively of course), thinking of the great things you can put them into to gain your team some well-needed clout with upper management.  So you hire them.

Then comes several months later…

When the tasks you’ve given them are taking a long while to get completed.  When their peers are coming to you to talk about how they are constantly asking questions they should know the answers to, and how in some cases, they just dump work at others’ desks because they “can’t” do it themselves and it’s easier for the other person.

So, without further ado (and yes, I just described a few features of them above) here are some warning signs to look for which are indicative of incompetent engineers (it is interesting how many correlate with arrogant assholes):

  1. After receiving a task, they move at a snail’s pace in getting it done.
  2. Their peers complain that they ask too many questions (and despite the old adage, there ARE, indeed, stupid questions – most notably those that have already been asked repeatedly with simple and memorable answers).
  3. They feign ignorance of many aspects of the job to avoid having to work with those things they don’t want to (or simply can’t) do.
  4. They look for any opportunity to claim credit for success.
  5. They do their best to point out any potential excuse for failures (outside of themselves.)
  6. On that last note, they have an external locus of control.  Everything is caused (inside their heads) by other factors over which they have no control.
  7. They suck up to their superiors to gain any advantages they can.
  8. They rarely meet expectations during performance reviews, yet can somehow explain away the reasoning behind why they weren’t able to meet them.
  9. And the best: Somehow, their peers completely understand the fact that they have no notable skills, and yet managers tend to be somewhat oblivious of it.

Due to their charisma, these types of engineers can be very hard to spot when you aren’t actually working with them.  They look to management like active and successful people, but most of the time, this is due to others’ work and solutions.  Team dynamics are infected with a rash of negativity as everyone avoids the person for fear of being pulled in to help them with yet another project they should be capable of doing.

One more type to come, and then some strategies to deal with all of these different types of engineers.

Are there any aspects of these inept engineers that I have left out?  Have you had experiences with any and wish to share your insights?  Do you think this behavior is guided by the systems in place in your organization?  Please join the conversation below!

UPDATE: please read my followup post entitled “How to handle inept engineers!

  • Guest

    I am working with the incompetent person (not an engineer) right now… We are not engineers though, we do IS type of programming. This person has a degree in IT/IS, yet the person can not create a simple query in MS Access. I don’t even know how that person has graduated from the college… On top of it, the person slacks off a lot! I seriously can not stand it.

    • Christian Fey

      It is amazing how often ineptitude is brought into an organization! It rarely is noticed beforehand, and qualifications speak louder than work history for most resumes. Sadly, it takes time for ineptitude to rear its ugly head. The real question is, why is no one doing anything about it? Has the manager been informed? If so, what are they doing about it? Due process can take time, but documentation is everything. Perhaps you can help get that documentation with your coworkers should they be on the cusp. Thanks for reading!