7: Mr. Magoo: Unconscious Incompetence

Being “blissfully unaware” is not blissful for your coworkers. In fact people who are unconsciously incompetent run the risk of bringing down the whole team. Do you have a coworker who doesn’t seem to “get it?” Have you ever worked with someone who was totally clueless? What “stage of competence” are you operating in? 


Today on Get to Work, Crina and Kirsten discuss unconscious incompetence and about what it’s like to have a “Mr. Magoo” or a “Commander McBragg” in the workplace, but there are a few serious and silly conversations before they get to the meat of the topic. 

The two hosts also talk about how do you make work meaningful, joyousand fun, and how important this is considering how long we spend our days in the workplace. We’re not going for mediocre – but great! Everyone is welcome here.

The conversation starts with Crina shares sharing something that’s been on her mind: dress code. Although this is not the bulk of the episode’s theme, it is worth mentioning. Crina describes a situation where show she was watching where middle school girls were worried about what to wear to a dance. The principal announces, “Don’t forget…nothing short, nothing tight…and we’re gonna have a good night!” What is this saying to young girls? Hide your sexuality, anything that might be found as attractive… and then come? The interesting thing is why the males weren’t being addressed. This topic really got Crina and Kirsten riled up – and could make for an interesting successful new episode!

Next, the two discuss Mr.Magoo. Remember the cartoon with the short bald man? He walks (and drives) through the world with his eyes closed and bumps into things – portraying a hilarious juxtaposition. Are  people in your workplace like Mr. Magoo? This is where unconscious incompetence comes in.

Crina and Kirsten discuss Noel Burch’s four levels of competency, or lack thereof.

Sometimes unconscious incompetence is a beautiful place to be. It could be the feeling you  have when you start a new job. The unfortunate thing is when someone stays in this phase for too long…especially when it’s your boss. Crina talks about an experience she had with a boss who was unconsciously incompetent – he did not know what he did not know. Crina ended up reaching out to the board letting them know that  he needed to move on as there was too much risk.  Think the old, outdated cartoon called CommanderMcBragg. Luckily, her organization had a 360 Review Process and the feedback was unanimous.  The worst-case scenario is your boss struggling with unconscious incompetence. If your co-worker is the one dealing with unconscious incompetence, it would be a great idea to create a relationship with them. You can offer support and a lot of details. A lot of these situations are not in your control so you will have to decide what works best for you.

Do you have a situation or story to share? Crina and Kirsten would love to hear from you!


Learn more about Noel Burch (click here)

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