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I'm worried I look incompetent at work, what can I do?

104 Answers
Last Updated: 12/05/2021 at 3:16pm
★ This question about Work Stress was starred by a moderator on 5/12/2016.
1 Tip to Feel Better
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Kajsa Futrell, RTC


I specialise in respectfully helping people navigate their way through trauma and relationship issues. The adversities in our life can actually transform us.

Top Rated Answers
September 14th, 2014 8:21am
I undertand you are worried. But worrying does not slove the probem right? , Can you tell me the reasons that why do you feel incompetent at work?
November 8th, 2014 4:23pm
Do you have reason to think you're actually incompetent at work, or are you just being paranoid? Work on doing your best, and consider asking your boss if there's somewhere you should improve!
November 10th, 2014 10:41am
First you have to work harder to improve your competency level. Also don't let your confidence slide easily. I suggest that you watch the following video.
January 7th, 2015 4:07am
This could be either a genuine or baseless worry. You can tell which by asking your boss honestly how you're doing at work. This person has no motivation or obligation to assure you of your competence as others might because they are your friends or your competitors. Should you find out you are lacking in some areas, you know how you can improve. You can learn from your peers, or take more courses to improve your skills. If you find out you are worrying needlessly, reflect on that discovery: it could mean you are overly self-conscious or self-critical. You can then work towards having a more healthy mental life.
October 19th, 2014 4:00pm
Everyone has faced this worry at some point of time. So first, you need to believe that you are not incompetent.
November 10th, 2014 10:25pm
The best way to overcome this is to actually become competent in whatever field you are in, also if you feel you are already competent you can do little self affirmations in the morning before going to work. Example, tell yourself "i am competent", "I deserve this Job". Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we deserve the things we have.
December 9th, 2016 12:16am
I work in the ambulance service and come face to face with all sorts of unusual illnesses, issues and sometimes very high stress situations. The funny thing is that while we get plenty of training and help at the start there's no way to be prepared for everything and even the stuff you have trained for, like delivering a baby, can result in different presentations such as twins on a strangers couch. My point is that most of the time I have no idea what I'm doing. All I can do is smile, be as confident as I can and just hope that nobody can see that I'm bluffing. I then do it again and again until the point where even if I don't feel 100% confident, I'm doing a good job. That's all that matters usually, a smile, appearing confident and not completely botching the job. Everything else is a bonus :)
September 19th, 2014 6:15pm
Assess your work. Manage time wisely. Admit mistakes. Don't be afraid to ask your boss for feedback.
October 28th, 2014 6:25pm
If you feel as though that you're not doing to well at your job, let your boss know and surely they'll be able to reassure you and help put you on the right track to do better.
September 22nd, 2016 2:39am
This might be a self-fulfilling prophecy! If people can tell that you look worried, they may wonder if you have something to worry about! Build your self-confidence and stop wondering about what other people are thinking so much. People will respect you if your work is done well; focus on your work and less on them. Coworkers who disrespect you despite you being a good employee are not worth your concern.
November 8th, 2014 10:47pm
Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Ask your supervisor for training opportunities, whether inside or outside your company. Ask your supervisor to evaluate your competence and give you some suggestions on which areas to improve your work performance - it might sound counter-intuitive but most supervisors will look at this effort on your part as a personal strength and asset to the company. There are also plenty of books and other resources online and at the library to help you improve your work performance or confidence/self-esteem at work. Try asking someone at work who you view as successful for advice. Keep a work journal and write about challenging situations, how you handled them, what the outcome was, and whether you would do something differently in the future - this will give you a concrete guide to reference when you're feeling unsure.
October 4th, 2014 12:47am
You just have to work as hard as you can and people would never judge you for that. Who knows? Others might have the same exact fear as you.
October 20th, 2016 1:22am
Be the best that you can be given your emotional/mental state. Do not be afraid to be open about problems you may be having.
November 11th, 2016 1:11pm
Sometimes people have different skill set than what is required for a job. They accept the job because of the beed but this leads to friction and demotivation for the person. Evaluate you skill sets and validate the same with jobs requirement. If required have an open discussion with your superior and have his feedback and take corrective measures. Good luck.
October 28th, 2017 5:54am
Often worrying about looking incompetent or incapable, doubting yourself, or being unsure at all is exactly what confirms your suspicions to those around you. We all have our doubts, but what makes a leader, and a good worker is acting sure, and trusting yourself even when the odds might seem against you. Believe in yourself, and know your limitations and strengths, take your time if you have to, but do it right. Understand that every mistake makes you better, and that you can do what you need to, if you doubt yourself, you will prove your doubts correct. We’re not perfect, but if you know and can do your stuff, that’s all that’s asked of you. No one can ask more than your best, and that’s all that can be asked of you, so give it always.
November 22nd, 2017 2:02pm
Its depends why you feel incompetent, if its your own insecurities and lack of self belief then work on complimenting yourself for a job well done. if your skill set is lacking, learn more about the job/industry to promote a greater confidence.
January 18th, 2016 2:30am
Set goals for yourself! No one can tell you that you are incapable if you are setting progressive goals that show how you've gained in skill! Best of wishes xoxo
February 9th, 2018 3:46pm
As a start, you might remind yourself that lots of us feel that way in our jobs. In some cases, that's what the job requires. It may also be the case that your concern for your competence is a sign of your determination to do a good job - it may just go hand-in-hand with a strong work ethic. Then you might think back to a mentor or someone you respect in your field. Imagine what they would do in a particular situation. You'll merge the confidence they symbolize for you into your own insight and skills. Eventually you won't worry about being incompetent because you'll see that your field, like all others, is ultimately flawed and silly and not nearly as impressive as you thought when you began, and that's all ok. We are all just doing our best and there's a humor and a poignant humanity in that.
October 4th, 2014 2:43pm
Try your best and if you feel as if you can do better then learn more, take extra courses or ask your manager for extra help.
November 9th, 2014 9:44pm
Perhaps ask somebody in management if there are any training opportunities. For example, maybe there is a workshop you could attend, or some resources you could read.
- Expert in Work Stress
April 25th, 2016 1:27am
Find out why u feel that way about yourself. There could be a deeper reason for you to feel such a way about urself.
October 23rd, 2016 10:56pm
Looking incompetent is different from being one so where looking is more about how your work is perceived vis-a-vis being is more about your performance. If it has something to do with your performance at work then you need to understand why is it so but if it is more about perception then, you might want to look into how do you communicate about your work or let's say showcase your work.
May 17th, 2018 8:06am
Just be yourself and relax. Be confident. If you work there it means that you are competent in your field
June 14th, 2018 6:00pm
It would be good to start with what makes you feel this way. Identifying your past track record could help you to realize that you are not incompetent at your job, maybe just not so assured. Or you could recognize areas where you could work to improve.
October 2nd, 2018 11:58pm
I do! But i have learned to forge my negative feelings to positive ones. So when i am feeling incompetent, i would think of ways to boost my self esteem. I am more focused now in making myself stronger than self pity. I don't want others to see me as a crybaby anymore. I believe that when we think of something it is more likely to happen. So when i think i can do something or i can be productive at work, I CAN! Maybe we cannot be the best for everyone, but we can be the best for ourselves. If we do not start loving and believing in ourselves, we will get nowhere.
November 15th, 2018 1:57pm
Imposter syndrome is so common! People at every level of accomplishment in their careers suffer from the feeling that they just aren't good enough and that at any moment others will expose them as incompetent and a fraud. What can you do? It can help to catch yourself when you are having these thoughts and just acknowledge that you have lots of skills and talents and you deserve to be there. It can also help to find a mentor who can guide you as you set clear goals that include how you'd like to learn an grow in your career. Gaining skills and experience will help you feel more confident about your contribution at work. Finally, there will be times where you will make mistakes -- we all do! Let go of perfectionism, acknowledge your misstep, fix it if you can, and then move on.
January 3rd, 2020 8:10pm
Wow, that sounds uncomfortable; but, what really made you notice something that acknowledged incompetence at work? Is this a recent finding? What should you do if some one confronts you about the fact that you seem uncomfortable; because sometimes the fear we feel is only within us. We need to remember that we are all human and as time goes on, we grow older an take on new life challenges. Do you think about writing down a list of decent scenarios that can provide you some mental cushioning that (will/would) really help keep you motivated in a positive manner without setting off self consciences thinking?
March 6th, 2020 6:14pm
before rushing into a new job and hoping that it’s better, have the courage to face your own insecurities right where you are. In the very job that’s bringing on all these self-doubts. If you can overcome your insecurities where you are, then you will be better able to handle a new job, should you still want it. Whatever it is. Wherever it is. You have nothing to lose and much to gain. But if you just move on without tackling your fears where you are (even if you fail), you’ll only come up against them again in the next job. And this time your feelings of inadequacy may even be stronger because you let them grow by giving in to them.
April 15th, 2020 9:11am
Things will not be easy at first. I'm sure you are tough and will be able to get through it. The more you get used to it, it becomes second nature! People will notice effort and improvement. Fight on! Work is only a part of our life, there are other things to work towards and keep yourself occupied after hours, remember that work life balance is important too. As well as self love. Love yourself, be confident and be kind! There's nothing better then that, you'll soon be looking forward to the coming days, it wont be easy, but effort is all you need.
October 8th, 2020 1:11pm
It's a common feeling. Many people in entry-level positions all the way to Executives feel this. What you need to do is ask yourself do you have any evidence that you are actually incompetent? Do your co-workers or managers act as so? Ask for performance reviews every 3 months and ask for feedback from managers when completing projects. Even if you are 'incompetent' it at least shows you are engaged and are still willing to learn. You wont look incomptent if you ask for feedback and write notes no matter what you do, incompetent people are those that are truly unaware of how they act at work. Good luck!