What to Do When Your Co-Worker Is Dumb As a Post

ANKPMP Portrait of a young man clearly unhappy about something

Do you work with someone you could only generously refer to as "dumb as a post?" You have no idea how this person finagled a job in your department or company, but it's clear focusing on the task at hand is not his or her strong suit? There are a lot of difficult personality types in the office, but it's possible the colleague who just doesn't seem to ever "get it" can be one of the most challenging to manage – especially if patience is not one of your virtues.

Take these tips into consideration if this hits home for you.

Put yourself in the other person's shoes.

Maybe you've already decided your co-worker is clueless, but try to stop and think about what may be confusing him or her. If the job is new or the job description recently changed, it is possible your colleague is experiencing overwhelm and maybe isn't as dumb as you think! Instead of getting angry or annoyed, take a deep breath and try, try again to explain things, or co-opt another colleague to take a shot at helping make things clear.

Is it you?

Maybe you don't realize how intimidating you are at work. Do you have a tone of voice that makes it clear you think the other person is clueless when alerted to a mistake? Do you raise an eyebrow a little too quickly or let out an exasperated sigh? If so, you could be contributing to the problem. Try to take a long look at how you are handling the co-worker and make a change.

Extend yourself.

Perhaps a little special attention from you can make a difference in helping get things on track. Don't underestimate the power of spending a little extra time explaining things and offering support and help. Some people would rather make mistakes than ask a question. If you offer to respond to inquiries – even though you've already explained things – you could save yourself a lot of grief later.

Seek assistance.

Depending on your company, there may be external resources available to help manage a problem employee. In some cases, he or she may be offered formal training. In other cases, it will be up to you (or a supervisor) to carefully document problems in order to counsel him or her into a more appropriate position elsewhere.

Problem solve.

If the problem isn't a matter of a new employee, and it's clear you're stuck working with someone who is more likely to cause a problem than to solve one, do what you can to circle the wagons and avoid handing important projects to the sub-standard colleague. It may mean more work for you and others in your team, but if you can avoid cleaning up problems later, it could be worth it. (Consider trying for a promotion yourself while you are at it.)

Be a friend.

If nothing else works, and it looks like your clueless colleague is there to stay, consider how you can help him or her find a different job. Share information about networking events and talk up the value of social networking to move ahead, career-wise. While you won't want to give a strong work recommendation to someone who clearly can't perform, maybe you can mentor the person into a role more appropriate – and out of your department.