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  • Writer's pictureDrDavanaPilczuk

Understanding Poor Performance

There she goes again. Your favorite employee whining about how this task ‘isn’t in her job description’ or that she ‘didn’t sign up for this.’ You just want her to perform and come through for the team. She just wants you to go away and to stop making her do things she doesn’t want to do. What to do?

Push back isn’t something that’s solely found at work. We all deal with people in our lives who pushback when we ask for help or for tasks to be completed. When these individuals resist, we tend to blame it on their character, stating they are lazy, incompetent, or difficult. However, a great coach once told me: people do not pushback for reasons that are stupid or unimportant to them. If you want to get to the root cause of why your teammate is being difficult, you simply have to determine if their resistance is due to their lack of ability to complete the task or if it’s due to their limited desire to complete the task.

Lack of ability

When someone says the words “I can’t...,” then the problem is almost always an ability one. “I can’t get this shipment out on time because the supplier sent us the wrong parts” is a problem of ability because the person isn’t able to do what’s been asked because of certain circumstances beyond their control. “I can’t finish this expense report by Friday” is also an ability problem that may be due to inadequate training, unfamiliarity with the new software system or some other reason blocking their ability to be successful.

When you face resistance, ask the question: Why can’t you... (fill in the rest of the sentence with dilemma). “Why can’t you get the shipment out on time? Where do you feel you are getting stuck?” Lack of ability will usually surface here and you can then determine how to help them. But if ability seems present and they are still resisting you, then you need to dig deeper.

Lack of desire

“No I can’t” requires a simple answer. “No I won’t” requires a conversation. This one is a bit trickier, because now we are dealing with motivation and the root cause of why the person feels unmotivated to do what’s been asked. “I’m not doing that. It’s not my job” might sound self-centered and un-team like, but you can’t assume this. These statements require investigating and figuring out why there is resistance.

Your teammate might feel over worked and undervalued and is sick and tired of doing things she perceives aren’t hers to do. Her reasons are very valid to her, so don’t dismiss or minimize them. Asking her to work during her lunch hour might be a cardinal no-no to her, so when she forcefully pushes back, you need to have the conversation and figure why.

The combo

Sometimes resistance can be a combination of both ability and desire, but almost always, one trumps the other. For example, if you ask me to create an excel spread sheet for supplier invoices, I will 100 percent resist you. One, because I find no joy in doing invoicing, and two, my Excel skills are pathetic. You just see me being difficult. I feel embarrassed to admit I can’t make formulas in excel and, again, I find invoicing blah. But it’s mostly my inability that’s creating the push back.

Let’s be honest here. Most of us will not admit when we cannot do something, especially if important people are watching and grading us on our performance. We will find ways to get out of the things we are weak in and will make up excuses for the things we don’t enjoy doing.

By listening closely to the reasons why people can’t or won’t do things, we can help problem solve the root cause of what’s really going on and help increase their motivation to do good work. Always remember, when you’re on a team or leading a team, your teammate’s success and sense of self-worth is just as important as yours. Help them when they are stuck, and they will come through for you in the end. July 29, 2018

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