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Subordinates Failure – Management’s Responsibility



A comment from the book The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: How Good Managers Cause Great People to Fail made me recognize management is more responsible for subordinates’ failure than we may have admitted to in the past.  “We would argue that the overwhelming majority of perceived weaker performers could improve significantly if they were better managed, better coached, or assigned to a position better suited to their capabilities.” It suggests that a great number of employees identified as weaker performers have actually been miscast.
12 – The Elements of Great Managing from Gallup and authors Rod Wagner & James Harter suggest the critical importance of employee engagement which was first revealed in First Break All the Rules.  What is most revealing is the influence that mid to lower level management has on employee engagement in a company.
Best Buy determined that just a 2% increase in their employee engagement could improve bottom line profits $70 million. [See Best Buy’s Core Score] Do you have a score that measures employee engagement? 
The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome offers that while not every employee is suitable and productive, we are perhaps achieving far less productivity from a good portion of employees due to mismanagement and poor communication. Many workers are miscast as weaker performers, and the The sad reality is that once people are miscast as weaker performers, they tend to live down to that image regardless of their capabilities. Our research suggests that the set-up-to-fail dynamic can take hold in a remarkably short time—and that once it does take hold, it proves very hard to reverse. Our research also suggests that false perceptions play a significant role in the initial performance “categorization.” That is why we call it a “set-up.”
Management today is not easy, as the authors point out, quite well I might add, To make sure that their subordinates execute tasks effectively, managers need to exercise strong discipline, control, and monitoring—which would seem enough of a challenge. …Companies also expect their managers to display positive values and to develop people. Executives are therefore expected to coach, empower, encourage initiative and risk taking, foster loyalty and commitment, and show recognition. It’s not just getting results that counts, but how executives get those results. They are torn between wanting to empower employees and making sure that those employees can deliver on commitments; they want to show consideration toward subordinates without encouraging complacency; and they want to push for performance without alienating their subordinates.”
Tough job isn’t it? The set-up-to-fail syndrome occurs when an employee fails to meet performance standards and the manager begins to micro manage or restrict the responsibilities the employee receives. A cycle develops that ultimately means the employee becomes less and less productive. 
The authors offer what the cycle looks like, “Subordinates often interpret that heightened supervision as a lack of trust and confidenceTheir initial attempts to fight back seem to have little impact on the boss’s opinion of them—and pretty soon instead of putting in more effort, they put in less. Deprived of elbowroom, they start to doubt their own thinking and ability, and they lose the motivation to make autonomous decisions. Feeling second-guessed much of the time, they figure, “Why should I take risks when the boss won’t appreciate it anyway?” Or else they hunker down and get on with the job but try to steer clear of the boss. Thinking—mistakenly—that the subordinate’s withdrawal confirms that he is indeed a weaker performer, the boss begins to intensify her involvement in the subordinate’s affairs.”

The need for Strategic Discipline, especially at the management level of our businesses has never been more critical. The right priorities, metrics that measure not only performance but employee engagement, and meeting rhythms, that keep management in the communication loop with employees and customers will continue to foster the best foundation to facilitate growth.

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