General Question

elia's avatar

Is incompetence generally more prevalent among management-level employees or non-supervisory level employees?

Asked by elia (127points) February 22nd, 2011

In my experience, incompetence among employees who held jobs at the supervisory and managerial level was the bigger problem. In fact, problems with the performance of non-supervisory employees was often the direct result of leadership failure, not an employee’s inability to do their job. Always leery of making assumptions, so I wanted to test this theory out on all you wonderful folks out there. Of course, many of you are probably thinking the answer is all too obvious, so I’m very interested in your perspectives! Thanks in advance for your time.

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16 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I would not single out either group as taking the lead in incompetence. I think that incompetent employees are scattered throughout the organization.

I might say that incompetence in management is likely to have more far-reaching effects on a company.

Hobbes's avatar

I think managerial incompetence tends to affect more people, so when it does happen it’s often more damaging.

Cruiser's avatar

Incompetent employees are quickly replaced…incompetent managers or supervisors don’t last too long either. In either case it would be a major failure of whoever hired and trained either employee if incompetence exists at any level.

But an incompetent manager or supervisor can have a greater impact on subordinate employees because if they are slacking, most everyone else under their charge will follow suit. The worst is an incompetent owner and that is when and where a business will fail and it happens all the time.

Hobbes's avatar


“incompetent managers or supervisors don’t last too long either.”

Not always the case. It depends on the sort of incompetence and the type of company. Managers in large companies in are often in a position to conceal or downplay their mistakes, and though they are often farther reaching, such mistakes are generally harder to detect because they don’t have the direct physical impact of, say, losing an order or accidentally knocking over a bunch of warehouse storage shelves.

Scooby's avatar

Yes I tend to agree with you, in my experience the incompetence in employees is a direct result of lack of training from team leaders through time constraints, the incompetence in team leaders is through lack of support & leadership from their section supervisors who’s incompetence is a direct result of aloof management….. :-/
And as cruiser pointed out an incompetent owner…..... who has no real idea what his managers are doing if anything but arguing amongst themselves as to who to blame for the breakdown in supply…..

Cruiser's avatar

@Hobbes Hence why I added the last line about incompetent Owners. Ignorance to their incompetent managers by the owner is their own damn fault!

I will admit though profits can camouflage a lot of incompetence and even reward it!!

janbb's avatar

Incompetence is an equal opportunity attribute.

gasman's avatar

Don’t overlook the importance of the Peter Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

This is an across-the-board effect – at all levels of organization, both management and labor. People keep getting promoted until they can no longer function effectively in their jobs. The corollary is that work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence. Sad but (often) true.

Judi's avatar

I recognized that familliar “Why the heck did they put him in charge?” sense in your question.
I believe that almost anyone can do well in most entry level jobs with great supervision.
I heard in some management class, “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”
If the “inspector” is incompetent, it will reflect in the customers experience of the company.

RocketGuy's avatar

My favorite Dilbert quote about a boss hiring someone smarter than himself:

Nullo's avatar

There is what is called the Peter Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

Cruiser's avatar

@gasman Adding to what you said…what I have seen a LOT of the last few years is ownership axing the high-paid “competent” managers to allow underlings to assume the responsibilities often for half the cost even less.

Hobbes's avatar

And sacrificing long-term stability for short-term gain is perfectly acceptable to the higher-ups because if the company tanks they’ll generally be able to escape unscathed.

elia's avatar

Two more perspectives:

Dilbert Principle- The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to where they can do the least damage: management.

Nartreb Principle- Each profession most attracts the people least suited to it.

Thought-provoking article- “Reconsidering the Peter Principle” (found at

boffin's avatar

@Nullo That’s what I was thinking… Great answer…

mattbrowne's avatar

Every top non-supervisory level employee is a manager too. He or she manages one key resource. Without great self management one cannot become a top specialist or a top expert.

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