Poor Performance… Who Is To Blame: Employee Or Boss?

by Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta

Have you found yourself or a team member struggling to perform as required?

Before you jump to the conclusion of inadequacy i.e. low performer, lack of qualifications, skills etc. I need you to pause for a second.

I remember while travelling some time ago, as I stood in the immigration line waiting my turn, I got talking to a gentleman and he asked what I did. I proceeded to share that I was a change consultant and coach, and as we discussed, we touched on one of my focus areas ‘high performance in organisations’.

What I found interesting during our discussion on creating high performing organisations, was the insinuation that high performance issues usually stemmed from having low performing employees, to which I responded “not necessarily”. There are often cases of poor employee or organisational performance that stem from a lack of clear vision and goals, leadership, team dynamics, having the ‘right people’ in the ‘wrong roles’ and the list goes on.

I believe there is significant truth to this quote “….if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” To a large extent, how we perform in our roles and achieving our goals can often be dependent on if we are in the right roles to begin with, our environment, and other factors.

As a manager many years ago, we had an individual who had been identified as a low performer, and just before we did anything drastic, we decided to take another look at their Job Role vs. Skill Set vs. Expectations, and agreed there was a mismatch. We then realigned the various factors, and subsequently, we began to see positive results from the employee. That was a win-win situation!

If you are leader in your organisation, before concluding that an employee may be a poor performer, first consider looking at the situation objectively to assess if the individual has been set up for success, and how as their leader you can help them perform better. As a co-worker, also take a step back to determine where the issue may lie, and how you can provide support to your colleague, “teamwork makes the dream work”. And as the individual concerned, also assess and determine based on the feedback received why your performance is being perceived as poor, and what you need to do about it.

Whether as a leader, team lead or manager seeking to determine if you are providing the required level of support to your team, or if you are the individual concerned with poor performance, an objective self-awareness exercise and skills assessment is worth undertaking to help you identify the next steps and actions to take in achieving desired performance levels. A great self-awareness exercise to consider exploring for team building is the Johari Window, which helps participants discover their Open-self, Known-self, Hidden-self and Unknown self with the help of team members.

Before, and if at all, one uses the word ‘blame’ the bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration.

As we draw close to the second half of this year, it is a great time to pause, reassess and restrategise on our efforts to ensure we are on target with our goals and performing at the level we desire. I’m currently working on mine and learning a lot!

What’s your take?