What’s Going On? – Part 12 in a Series on Handling Common Employee Performance Issues

Puzzle 3Most people at work are good employees.  They do what’s expected most of the time.  They work hard, come to work every day and play well with others.  Some employees go above and beyond the normal expectations.  They arrive early, stay late and are nice to have around.  But then there are those few employees and occasionally good employees, when they do it wrong or not at all.

We have all asked ourselves at some point, “What’s going on?  Why can’t they just do what I asked them to do?”

 Here in this series, we will highlight 13 reasons that can affect a person’s performance and provide some ideas on how to handle them when they arise.  Many managers feel that they are just not motivated, which leads to non-specific answers to the problem.  In contrast, knowing what the problems are changes the question from, “How do I motivate them?” to “How do I improve their performance?”  Understanding this concept leads to specific actions that can be taken.

They Are Rewarded For Not Doing It

But what manager in his right mind would reward people for poor performance?  Mostly, it is done unconsciously.

  • Employees who do difficult tasks poorly are given only easy tasks to perform.
  • When an employee makes a mistake, the manager corrects the mistake.
  • Employees who perform poorly receive a lot of attention.  Like buying them coffee or lunch to discuss things.
  • Employees who are difficult to control are given assignments where they have a lot of freedom.

Performance that is rewarded will increase in frequency.  When a manager is asked to send someone to a company activity, on company time, at company expense – who is sent?  The manager will usually send the only person he can afford to lose – the poor performer.

If you repeatedly reward your employees’ complaining behavior with your attention, complaining behavior will increase.  Your intentions are not important; it is your attention that is the rewarding consequence.

What Can You Do?

  • Consider if what you do to reward the employee is a reward from the employee’s point of view.
  • Do not reward people for nonperformance.  Stop buying coffee.
  • When an employee makes a mistake, make them correct the mistake.
  • Reward employees for the opposite of what you want them to do.  Give them your attention for doing what you want them to do.
  • When an employee does a difficult task poorly, manage them closely, but keep assigning the difficult tasks until either performance improves or remove the employee from the job requiring the task.
  • You should apply the necessary management controls for difficult employees while communicating the consequence of continued poor performance, but also be quick to verbally reward improvements.


Learn more about Handling Employee Problems.

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