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

100 Answers
Last Updated: 04/08/2021 at 10:30pm
★ This question about Work Stress was starred by a moderator on 5/12/2016.
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Sarah Archer, LMFT

Marriage & Family Therapist

As a Licensed MFT I work with clients to more effectively address, process and learn skills to manage the problems that prevent them from living the life they want.

Top Rated Answers
July 26th, 2018 9:47pm
It can be because of low self-esteem, or the pressure to please people around you. Be proud of what you do and let yourself shine.
August 1st, 2018 5:22am
Just observe your seniors working style & make a quick comparison where do you lack. Adjust yourself to overcome your shortfalls. But remember compare the working style,do not compare as an individual. Take your criticism as your scope for improvement.
August 1st, 2018 9:29pm
You should understand that other people's opinions don't really matter, as the only person you really need to please is yourself.
August 10th, 2018 6:10pm
Find someone at work who is respected and model your behavior after them. When do they show up to work, when do they leave? What does their desk look like? How long do they take for lunch? Dress a little nicer than your peers at work. Not so nice that you stand out but nicer than average. Humans are greatly affected by appearances and will judge your competence based on this. It’s sad but true. Pay attention to your shoes. NEVER be late. Ever. Be the person who is always on time. Know your Boss. Look for little things that make your boss happy or look good. For instance, my boss likes to have her time cards turned into accounting on time. Therefore I make sure I always turn my time card in ahead of time. It seems trivial but it makes my boss happy and therefore I treat it as an important task. What are things that make your boss happy or look good?
August 30th, 2018 4:45am
Your thoughts are what make you. If you allow yourself to think this way you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to believe in yourself and others will too. This is a common feeling to have, especially if it is a new experience for you. Focus on the positives, what you can do, and how to grow. It does not matter what other people think of you, even though it may seem so on the surface. It matters what you think of yourself. You are capable, competent, and rock at work! Even if you make a mistake, just remember that mistakes are not failures, but learning experiences.
September 8th, 2018 7:30pm
One thing you can do is try to improve on the things that you feel make you seem incompetent. Although, you might not see the effects right away, it will solve the root of the problem. Another thing you can do is talk to your friends about how you feel and share those feelings with them. Sometimes it helps to get the feelings out and will make you feel more confident in your ability at work. It is also to realize that everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Some people might look weaker than others, but that is because their strengths aren't currently being shown. Others might seem perfect, but that's because you are not aware of their many weaknesses. :)
September 13th, 2018 7:33am
Take a step back and look at the facts, have you received feedback from your manager or supervisor or co-workers. If not, it may be wise to ask for feedback asides your normal 1-2-1's This will then allow you to make an informed decision on whether your feelings are justified and allow you to formulate a plan (if necessary) to change things. It should also give you peace of mind that you have taken ownership of the situation which is a very positive step. Once we own a situation and name it, we can take positive action and get a result that benefits everyone.
November 10th, 2018 11:09am
Firstly, ask yourself what do you think makes you look incompetent. Write it on a piece of paper. Then, for every thought, try to think of a situation in which you showed your incompetence. What you did and how did others react? Did you really seem incompetent or just self-conscious? If you answered incompetent, try to think how can you improve and handle similar situations in the future. You can also think of the ways how your colleagues act and take example from them. No one comes to their job knowing everything, it takes time to adapt, to learn. Good luck :)
November 28th, 2018 3:56am
When you've got a task to complete, dedicate yourself to being productive and make sure that your colleagues understand the full extent of the contributions you're making. Ask for more responsibility, and show that you can handle this by doing well on what you're currently working on and documenting your success. Be sure to be responsive and helpful; this will go a long way towards demonstrating the value that you add to the organization. When someone trusts you enough to ask for help, go above and beyond to assist them. Most of all, concentrate on what you're doing, rather than getting caught up in the anxiety about possibly looking incompetent or feeling like an imposter.
December 1st, 2018 6:53am
i think that you're feeling less confidence at ur work your first work is to gain your confidence and your youthness..try to work what boss says and how boss says if you cant do that that say boss sorry and at home or your free time you have to try that work which u could not do. try to work hard my friend there is no alternative of success and what ever you do and when or which thing you do do that with perfectness.. be a perfectionist then all people will love your work and you will feel more confident
April 17th, 2019 5:05pm
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.
August 8th, 2019 2:22am
Have you talked with you boss about these worries yet? Your boss might be surprised that you're worried at all. Having that conversation will provide you with some validation that you're doing a great job. If your boss does feel as though you are incompetent, this is a great opportunity to discuss what you can do moving forward. Showing that you are concerned about your work performance is usually very impressive to employers, and they'll appreciate the fact that you are looking for ways to improve. Your boss should be able tell you where you are underperforming, and you can work together to create an action plan for improving your performance.
September 14th, 2019 1:35pm
Learn more , read more and watch more .. if you dont feel competent enough maybe you could learn more .. when you feel confident about what you have inside your head and what you are capable of, it will be clear to everybody else .. once you are confident you wont have to worry about what anybody else is thinking .. so what i wanted to say is learning makes you competent and competence makes you confident . Confidence is the kye to stop caring about what others think.
September 29th, 2019 7:44am
All of us — on occasion, at least — overreact to the small stuff, often without even realizing it. If you find yourself getting overly angry, upset, or defensive over little things, take comfort in knowing that there are actions you can take to more effectively manage your emotions. Listen, it’s totally okay to feel your emotions and want to explode sometimes, but that way of dealing with situations doesn’t tend to feel so great. Allowing ourselves to acknowledge annoying predicaments and then find constructive ways to express and deal with them serves us much better in the long run. If something truly upsetting happens, it’s perfectly reasonable to get up
January 1st, 2020 7:29pm
I can understand that feeling of insecurity or be pointed out of being miserable. The best that we can do in that situation is to learn, isn't it? We can learn every day, and practise to our best. But we should also not forget that having this vulnerability can allow some politically-biased colleagues to take advantage of our us. Under that situation, having a diplomatic approach while dealing with people can be genuine on our part. And at the same time, utilising our time to be our best at work will bring harmony to everyone.
January 10th, 2020 12:11pm
Looking and feeing incompetent at work are two different things but can occur at the same time. If I felt incompetent at work I would request further training or ask to shadow someone so that I could learn and develop my skills and identify which areas I need to progress on. If I look incompetent at work because of a lack of things to do, I tend to do 'down time' jobs which include tasks like cleaning. They always need to be done! Although if things are busy and go wrong which cause me to look incompetent, I take a deep breath. I challenge the feelings of doubt and take my time, if I were not competent enough to do my job then I wouldn't be in the role. Be kind to yourself, always!
January 25th, 2020 7:25pm
First, stop worrying about what others think (easier said than done, right? Lol) When we feel incompetent that is a good time to take the opportunity to self evaluate. Which area specifically do I feel incompetent? Was I properly trained? Did I have prior knowledge of this job function before I accepted the position? Am I a pro in this field or a newbie? There are different reasons we feel inadequate. Unless the position is new and you don’t feel that you were properly or completely trained, your feelings of I adequacy are most likely directly related to your sense of self and self esteem. When you don’t feel that you are a valuable individual you tend to put yourself down and that affects your perception of yourself all over again. You start to believe the lies you tell yourself and fall deeper into self doubt and possibly self loathing. The best thing to do is to reach out to a supervisor and ask for honest feedback. Be prepared, without becoming defensive, for whatever your supervisor may present to you. Be open to constructive criticism and above all be willing to accept that we all can improve ourselves in different areas of our lives. Make changes and once you feel you’ve mastered things, ask for feedback again.
February 9th, 2020 7:37am
I am glad that you have detached the worries accompanied by supposed incompetence at work. Please always remember that incompetence seems like a natural attribute, but actually it is mostly self-assessed and subjected to changes. Please think of it as a call for a change in yourself, and response to it kindly. So either way, you'll improve, it's just a matter of whether it will be the easy way or the hard way, and how long you'll let things be as awful as they are while you pretend you're not responsible and the whole world should lower its standards for you. Some people go on like that for decades. Don't let it be you.
March 5th, 2020 9:14am
First and foremost stay calm never let them see how flustered you are that's a sign of weakness to them, instead slow down if need be and totally focus on each section of the job breaking it down into smaller pieces of the job then move onto the next section and so on, try not to think about the pressure or the whole picture until you get to the end where you can reflect back and repeat the same process and within time this will become second nature which will then give you more confidence in yourself and more than likely make less mistakes and before you know it it will be full steam ahead!
March 19th, 2020 4:08am
You can always try your best to have a good attitude and take responsibility for what needs to be done with having to be asked. Maybe try talking with your manager and seeing if there is something you could use improvement on and ask him to show you the best way to improve that skill. Maybe you can try different areas and find your strong suit in your job and that will help you to feel better about yourself and be more productive. Also make sure to take little breaks from time to time and do something else so that you are not getting burned out.
May 1st, 2020 11:50pm
Sometimes, we tend to feel small in this vast universe; diverse and unique people are all around. Believing instead of worrying, i believe is key. take it to step by step, try to see the odds and chances of you developing and becoming great. The need of recalling that there will always be someone greater, better, and totally different than you. Nevertheless, while working on yourself and to what you truly want you'll get it and make this feeling vanish. And you'll totally be able to make it by seeing in what ways you could evolve and become better.
May 24th, 2020 8:03am
If you feel insecure about the way you look or act, then you could try working on your self-confidence! This will help you feel better about yourself and make you appear more confident at work. But remember that most of the time we only think we look a certain way, when in reality most people don't notice or they perceive us better than we perceive ourselves. There is great mindfulness exercises to boost self confidence online. There's also some guided meditations that could be really helpful. Do some research on them and see what you think would work best for you!
June 3rd, 2020 8:20pm
Thank you for wiritng in. Your commitment to change your work habits shows you have taken the first step already. What does competent work mean for you? .... Thank you for sharing. Competnet work can mean a lot of differnet things to different people. It's to reflect on our previous experices as a way to guide our future experience. I hear your having a hard time strarting to figure out what you need. I think the first step is to reflect on all the work you have done already. What are something you believe you can improve on, and what are small steps you can take to improve in those areas.
June 11th, 2020 6:23am
Worrying about your incompetency is only possible when either you haven't upgraded your skills or you need some career level guidance to understand your next step at work for you to excel. What you can do is answer the following questions to understand the problem area. - Why do you worry about looking incompetent? - Are you happy with your job? If no, then did you try to find out what is your interest area? - Do you know your grey areas of work in your organization? If yes, then why is your focus going outward on others? When you answer these questions, you will automatically get an outline of the real problem after which you don't really need to worry about 'Looking incompetent' because you would have already understood your best competency area and thus now you know where to improve yourself thus solving your problem.
June 14th, 2020 9:58pm
Hold your head up high, suck the belly in, shoulders back, and walk into all meetings/work place proud with a smile. This has worked many time when I feel nervous for me in the past at work. Truth be told, no one knows what you know best! If you've done the work, and you know your stuff, don't discount yourself! Practice smiling at home, and take a selfie. Look at the photos, and review," Which smile makes me look like someone I would want to listen to and talk to if I was at a party??" Mark that smile down mentally and make it part of your work "look". If this is really just a "look" aspect, sometimes there is an attire that is required to be at work. A simple hair cut at the salon can give you more of a makeover refresher than you realise. When I first finished university, I didn't have the funds to get the best looking office work wear. A lady at the office gave this suggestion to me, and it has always worked for me. Good Luck, they didn't hire you by mistake. Believe in yourself!
July 7th, 2020 9:59pm
Keep in mind that you never look as awkward or incompetent as you feel you are in a given situation. I know it’s easy to believe that you’re being judged in the workplace, especially if you maybe weren’t there as long as others or are just unsure in what you’re doing. I’m sure you’re doing great At your job. Continue to ask questions so you look dedicated to learning and try to socialize in a positive way. In the end, other people’s thoughts can’t affect you and they’re nothing to be worried about. :) Keep doing your best and take care.
July 19th, 2020 5:51pm
You can work on your knowledge, try to learn some skills which are important for the field you are working in. Try to communicate more with your co-workers, maybe they will understand your problems and know a best way to help you. You should discuss this with your loved ones because they may see if you are just pressuring yourself and not being realistic about your competence. But most importantly, you should be patient with your progress, know if you are pushing yourself too much so that you don't overstress yourself. Be kind to yourslef and know that you are giving your best.
September 10th, 2020 12:59am
Try to ask a close person if you are doing okay, then make notes and strive to improve. This will help you get feedback from other people without hurting anyone. Most of the time, there are little things that we can improve on the make ourselves feel better. Talking and asking someone for their input on your skill level and work quality at work can really boost you confidence, and again not hurt your feelings or anyone else’s. This close person can most likely give friendly feed back rather than someone you don’t know or just met. If you dint have a close friend, ask you boss or someone you think might be able to help.
September 10th, 2020 8:09am
If you think you lool incompetent you can try some ways and work on yourselves. No need to make comparison from your other co workers. Instead focus on the areas you feel you need to improve. Start at home. Practice time management, it will help you to accomplish on its specific given time. Having a good time management will somehow lessen hassles and stress since you organize your time and plan it ahead, you will be able to your obligations at work. Second, be more productive. If you are already done with your duties, try to look for stuffs you can learn. It always feels good upon learning new things. Last, take some time to rest. We are humans, we are not robots. We get tired, so we need rest. In order for us to think wisely and effctively we need to rest and refrain from being exhausted.
September 17th, 2020 7:26am
Regularly stressing over looking uncouth or inadequate, questioning yourself, or being uncertain at all is actually what validates your premonitions to everyone around you. We as a whole have our questions, yet what makes a pioneer, and a decent laborer is acting certain, and confiding in yourself in any event, when the chances may appear against you. Trust in yourself, and know your impediments and qualities, take as much time as is needed on the off chance that you need to, yet do it right. Comprehend that each slip-up improves you, and that you can do what you have to, in the event that you question yourself, you will demonstrate your questions right. We're not great, however in the event that you know and can do your stuff, that is all that is asked of you. Nobody can ask more than your best, and that is everything that could possibly be asked of you, so give it generally.