Culture & Community | By Scott Schulte,

Why Employees Fail— And What You Can Do About It.

When it comes down to it, there are three basic reasons employees fail. Fortunately (or unfortunately) all of these things are within your control. Once you recognize the issues, you can work toward solutions.

When it comes down to it, there are three basic reasons employees fail.

  1. They’re at the wrong company
  2. They’re in the wrong position
  3. You’re not giving them what they need to succeed

Fortunately (or unfortunately) all of these things are within your control. Once you recognize the issues, you can work toward solutions.

Wrong bus

The concept is simple, but oh-so-true. You’ve got to have the right people on the bus in order to get where you want to go.

When someone is on the wrong bus, it’s usually pretty obvious. They aren’t a good fit culturally. They aren’t interested in where the organization is going or how they can help move it in the right direction. They don’t enjoy their work— or their work mates. None of this is good for the individual in question or the team as a whole.

If you let someone on your bus who clearly doesn’t belong, it’s time to gently help them off.

Right bus, wrong seat

This scenario is a little harder to diagnose. Sometimes, you’ve got an employee on staff who tries hard and is well-liked, but who is constantly struggling to meet their job goals and objectives.

It’s possible you’ve made a fantastic cultural hire only to put that person in the wrong role.

Examples of this include:

  • Hiring people for positions they didn’t apply for
    • “We really liked her when she interviewed for the accounting position, so we offered her the opening in HR.”
  • Promoting high performers into jobs they aren’t suited for
    • “He’s such a good salesperson, we made him the team manager.”
  • Adding new responsibilities that don’t play to individual skill sets
    • “Her main focus is marketing, but we needed help in IT.”

Never assume that people and positions are interchangeable. They aren’t. The absolute right person in the absolute wrong position will be an absolute disaster.

Even your very best employees can fail if you put them in a position to do so.

It’s not them. It’s you.

Of course you’re going to have the occasional hiring fail, but if you are constantly struggling with underperforming teams or employees, the problem may be on your end.

Here are some common leadership mistakes that can cause good employees to fail:

Lack of direction – If your employees aren’t clear about what they need to do, how can they possibly perform to standard? Assigning tasks in a haphazard manner will get you haphazard results.

Poor communication – Checking in the day before a project is due is too little, too late. Especially if you neglected to share said due date in the first place.

Communicate clearly and openly before and throughout a project to make sure everyone is on the same page. Once the project is complete, communicate some more. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Answer questions and make notes about ideas for next time.

Bad management – If you’re responsible for managing a project and it goes awry, you need only look in the mirror to find out why.

  • Create an atmosphere of communication, trust, and confidence, and people will naturally succeed.
  • Rely on micromanagement, fear and distrust, and you will see projects get done, but only to minimal standards. You will have effectively squashed all creativity, innovation, and project ownership.
  • Manage like a magician, appearing out of nowhere to assign projects, leaving the details hidden in your bag of tricks, and constantly looking for applause, and you will see results disappear in a puff of smoke— along with the respect of your team.

Lack of teamwork – If your organization operates in silos (or silence!) you’re setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. Teams need to work together, talk together, succeed together and celebrate together. If you’re not actively encouraging and facilitating these things, you are your own worst enemy.

But how will I know if my employees are struggling?

Sometimes, it can feel like you’ve been blindsided when a key project or employee doesn’t come through. But there are usually some telltale signals that things aren’t working, if you know where to look.

Here are some signs your employees are in the dark:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Procrastination
  • Mistakes
  • Silence
  • Resignation letters

Okay. That last one was a joke. But the cost of underperforming employees isn’t.

If this is an issue in your company, it’s time to take a good look at your HR and management processes to see what’s going on. Look for patterns of behavior among teams and projects, and commit to carving out time with top leadership to talk about what’s going on. Your employees— and your business— are depending on you.

At Sonus Benefits, we help clients all throughout the Midwest identify organizational challenges and put customized solutions in place. From tailored benefit programs to human resource management services, we’ve got you covered. If you’re looking for a corporate employee benefits consultant who is a true business partner, and not just a once a year policy peddler, Sonus is here for you.


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