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PayScale’s VIP Blog Roundup: Michael Scott Syndrome – When the Incompetent Don’t Know They’re Incompetent


Everyone has had this co-worker: the person who has no clue what they’re doing … and no idea that they’re not the smartest guy in the room. In the worst-case scenario, the incompetent colleague is your boss, and you spend your days alternately marveling at their delusion and cursing the day you agreed to take this job in the first place. How did they get this way, and why are the incompetent often so filled with undeserved self-confidence? This week’s roundup looks at this mystery, plus how to get buy-in during a big change, and how to be happier at work, starting today. best boss

(Photo Credit: Kumar Appaiah/Flickr)

Dan Erwin: The Michael Scott Syndrome

When’s the last time you heard someone say they were incompetent? Even people with low self-esteem will rarely describe themselves this way. (And when they do, they’re not necessarily right – but that’s a whole different issue.)

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At his blog, Dan Erwin discusses recent research that shows why incompetent people are so easily able to undermine our success at work:

Michael Scott, the clueless office incompetent, played by Steve Carell in “The Office,” is not unique. We meet people like this in the coffee shop, at school, church and neighborhood. No question but that all of us are incompetent in some areas, but it is especially frustrating when we have to work with people who are incompetent in their job and it impacts our work.

Two psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger have worked on cluelessness, finding among other things that incompetence is bliss, as well as numerous highly relevant business insights.

One piece of research followed through on two predictions:

1. Incompetent people dramatically overestimate their ability.

2. Incompetent people are not good at recognizing incompetence — their own or anyone else’s.

James Nicholson at The Fast Track: Getting Essential Buy-In at the Beginning of a Change Process

Most people don’t like change, which is a challenge for the poor manager who must convince his or her team to embrace something new, whether it’s a different way of doing things or a brand-new tool.

“Getting buy in, that is, leading others to see the value in a change or process can be an elusive component to moving forward — but it’s an essential one,” writes Nicholson. “But there are ways to bring the conversation and support in your direction.”

His suggestions include testing the proposed change before introducing it to the team, and being honest with everyone about what to expect.

Marianne Stenger at Careerealism: 3 Ways to Increase Your Job Satisfaction

“Although it’s probably safe to say that most of the time you would prefer to be doing something else, there are likely at least some aspects of your job that you do find enjoyable,” Stenger writes. “To increase your overall job satisfaction, you can emphasize the tasks you do enjoy by spending more of your time and energy on them.”

She offers the example of the professor who enjoys interacting with students, and so decides to maximize her time with them, and spend less time contributing to committees.

While that might seem like an obvious suggestion, many of us make difficult jobs harder on ourselves by starting off from the perspective of “I should,” instead of “I want.” All jobs include tasks we find less than thrilling, but the goal is to focus on the work that fulfills you and furthers your career … and then do what you have to do, in order to be allowed to continue doing what you love.

Her other suggestions are also worth a peek, especially if you’re not empowered to make major changes in your job right now. Small tweaks can make a big difference in your job satisfaction and success. (And, the latter might just propel you to a better gig.)

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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