Friday, July 27, 2012

The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome

When an employee fails - or even just performs poorly - managers typically do not blame themselves. The employee doesn't understand the work, a manger might contend. Or the employee isn't driven to succeed, can't set priorities, or won't take direction. Whatever the reason, the problem is assumed to be the employee's fault and the employee's responsibility.

But is it? Sometimes, of course, the answer is yes, some employees are not up to their assigned skills and never will be, for lack of knowledge, skill, or simple desire. But sometimes - and we would venture to say often - an employee's poor performance can be blamed largely on his boss.

Perhaps 'blamed' is too strong word, but it is directionally correct. In fact, a research from Harvard Business School strongly suggests that bosses - albeit accidentally and usually with the best intentions - are often complicit in an employee's lack of success. 


By creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived underperformers to fail. If the Pygmalion effect describes a dynamic in which employees perceived to be mediocre or weak perfomers live down to the low expectations their managers have for them. The result is that they often end up leaving the organization either of their own volition or not.

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