5 characteristics of clueless coworkers

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Jun 17

The other night, I was talking to a friend and the subject was coworkers. I said that I’ve become far less tolerant of clueless people and I didn’t understand exactly why. After some additional discussion, my lack of tolerance–the willingness to help clueless coworkers or invest in improving their work–ends up coming from the ability to recognize clueless coworkers earlier and earlier in the relationship.

What are those characteristics? These:

You explain how their job works multiple times and they don’t understand

Now, if someone is new on the job, they obviously won’t know everything. In my book, for example, I talk about the need of a person starting a new job to hear how things work at least three different times so that adult learning starts to kick in. But one should see progress. Like the “Eureka!” moment when you are in a meeting and someone says a complete paragraph that includes ten acronyms and, stunningly, you understand what was said and what it all meant. That’s progress.

Worse is the person who has been in the job for a year and still doesn’t understand how the work gets done. Clueless.

Multiple managers explain an issue about their work and they still don’t see the problem

It’s one thing to have one manager not able to communicate an issue with performance by a person. People have different communications styles and having only one person explain it sometimes means the point doesn’t get across.

But when multiple managers explain an issue to a coworker and they still don’t get it (or, change what they are doing to fix it), they are clueless. And you know that coworkers have already talked to the person about the issue, right? Because the impact of the issue is affecting their ability to get their work done.

They continue arguing for something even though the answer is not their solution

People need to be heard when it comes to their suggestions; no argument there. But clueless coworkers continue to argue for a solution that was decided on months ago and has been rehashed at least three times. Doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter. As soon as some situation comes up–or a new person comes on board for the team–the clueless coworker will argue for the same solution all over again.

Seriously, how many times do you argue for something before moving on? Clueless people don’t have a number for that.

They don’t understand how their work impacts others

It is one thing to understand how to do your job. It is another to also understand how what you do impacts other areas. Great employees know how their work impacts other people. That helps them both do their job better and, more importantly, what levers to pull to help get over a hump.

Clueless coworkers blindingly do their work with no regard for how it impacts others. Issue a request for information, then don’t use it? That’s OK. Suggest a date for completing something and then miss it without any warning? Someone else’s fault. Change the way your work is sent on without telling anyone? Well, it was better for Clueless, so it wouldn’t make any difference to anyone else, would it?

They work on their own priorities regardless of the department priorities

Think of the project that loses funding. To stop incurring costs, you stop work on the project. Like right now. Clueless people continue working on the canceled project because they still have stuff on their to do list for the project. The rest of the department moved on, but that old project is still beckoning clueless coworkers.

Clueless coworkers impact your corporate work experience

One could argue that a clueless coworker has a benign impact on what you do. Perhaps when “deadwood” was a term still used in corporations to talk about workers who didn’t contribute much but were still on the payroll.

Now clueless coworkers impact everyone. Clueless managers drive the people reporting to them crazy. Clueless team members mean the rest of the team has to pick up all of the slack–and get totally frustrated in the process. Great employees look at clueless coworkers and simply ignore them. Get enough clueless coworkers and great employees leave because they crave their own sanity and well-being.

What other characteristics do your clueless coworkers demonstrate?

Photo by jerekeys


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.