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Who's at fault for non-performance? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Donald Cooper   

ImageEvery business is the sum total of the performance of all the people in it. To prosper, we must achieve world-class performance, individually and collectively, regardless of the size and nature of our business.

There are many reasons for our staff not performing...and, surprisingly, most of those reasons are not their fault. In fact, in the majority of cases we, as bosses, have set them up to fail. Check out the 11 possible reasons for your staff not performing, shown below, and think about what needs fixing in your business to improve performance.

They don't understand what you want done, the standard to which you want it done, or by when you want it done. There's a lack of clarity.

Lack of clarity is one of the biggest causes of non-performance in most businesses, and it's generally not the employees fault. Creating clarity is your job - so, do it.

Make sure everyone in your organization is clear about what is expected of them and why it's important.

They lack the skills, information, tools, time or empowerment to do the job effectively.

As much as you'd like to blame your employees for not performing, none of this is their fault. Make sure that every employee has the skills, information, tools, time and empowerment to do the job they've been given.

There's no process in place, so it's done differently each time.

Sorry, once again, not their fault. They're not in charge of "process" - you are. Everything that happens between intent and delivery is "process". Without it, you'll not get the consistent outcomes you're looking for.

They don't understand why their job is important.

OOPS, your fault again. According to many surveys, the number one reason why employees stop trying is they believe that they don't make a difference.

Make sure every employee understands how their job affects customers, the team and the bottom line. Reinforce this message over and over.

It doesn't have to be done! You just think it does. They get it - and you don't.

This one's a bummer. They understand the reality of the situation better than you do. They're trying to save you time and money by not doing something that's wasteful, and you see it as non-performance.

They have a better way to do it and have the guts to do it the better way and hope that you won't notice. But you have noticed, and you see it as non-performance.

These people are "gold". They're smart, they "get it", they care, and they take initiative. Don't beat up on them. In fact, maybe you should promote them, or at least hug them.

A personal problem/crisis is distracting them.

Sometimes good employees go into a tailspin because of some personal problem or crisis. The road of life contains potholes. Now is your time to shine as an organization. Now is the time to show what you're really made of. How can you and the rest of the team pitch in and support these folks?

But, be clear which problems or crises you are and are not prepared to support. You may be absolutely determined to help an employee with a sick child or an ailing parent but not to support an employee with a cocaine addiction, or one who beats their spouse, or threatens the life or safety of fellow employees.

They're good people in the wrong job.

We've all seen this one. Many of us have been the "square peg in the round hole" at some point in our career. We were given a job or task for which we simply were not suited.

For example, there are people who are great at managing people and there are people who are great at managing things. Never put a person who is great at managing things in charge of a bunch of people. It will end badly. Before sacking someone who seems to have some very good qualities, but who is not performing, see if some other job would make excellent use of their talents.

They're underpaid or underappreciated.

OOPS, sorry, your fault again. Underpaid people feel they're being ripped off so they either lower their performance to the level they think they're being paid for, or they leave.

Unappreciated people just wither away like a plant that hasn't been watered. Create a culture of acknowledgement and appreciation. Look for behavior to praise, reward and celebrate - a "thank you" every day. As the boss, you are in charge of the culture of your organization or department. Do the job.

The job is beyond their mental or physical abilities.

You've put someone into a job that they are physically or mentally incapable of doing, often with the best of intentions. But it's not their fault. They gave it their best shot, but they can't perform as required. Rather than beat them up for non-performance, graciously guide them into a job that they can do, or help them exit the organization gracefully.

They simply don't want to do it. They're lazy, irresponsible or have a toxic attitude.

Some people are simply poor performers for reasons that exist entirely within themselves. You don't have the time or resources to save these people and they are, well, toxic. Move them out of the organization as quickly as possible. Good people leave because bad people are allowed to stay.

There you have it. Eleven reasons for non-performance and most of them are not our employees' fault. We all need to manage smarter. Based on what you've learned here, how might you improve the way that you recruit, promote, train, communicate with, reward, acknowledge and celebrate your team? Specifically, what needs doing or fixing and who will make it happen, by when?

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability. For more information, or to subscribe to his thought-provoking free business e-newsletter, go to

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