How can I help my colleague perform better at work?

Friday August 2 2019

Caroline Mboijana

Caroline Mboijana 

By Caroline Mboijana

I have a workmate who is incompetent. She asks for my help with everything and I don’t mind helping. I keep wondering how she got the job because she is clearly not qualified enough. How can I help her without doing her work for her but also not reporting her incompetence which might cause her to lose the job? Sheila

Dear Sheila,
It’s commendable that you want to support your workmate. A few points to consider that may guide what you do next.

If your workmate is newly appointed, she may not necessarily be incompetent, but is going through a learning curve. If, however your workmate has been in the role for a significant amount of time i.e. past her probation period then it’s a different issue.

She may not be a good fit for the role; or she may have been recruited for one role where she was fit and is now in a different role; or her supervisor is not managing her to recognise she can’t do the work that’ be given to her.

My suggestion is to speak with her so you can find out what is causing the problem. Your discussion will highlight the root cause from which you’ll be better informed to help to her.

Depending on the nature of her relationship, she may want to consider discussing her challenges with her supervisor, so her supervisor has a chance to support her. The proactivity of initiating such a difficult conversation will cause her supervisor to take ownership of her development and growth.


If she’s not comfortable with doing that, she’ll have to take the lead for self- learning and development so that her knowledge gaps are addressed. It’s important she appreciates and understands the risks she’s taking by not addressing her knowledge gap, there will come a time when her short falls will be noted and she’ll end up being dismissed.

Caroline Mboijana
Managing Director
The Leadership Team (U)