Intent Blog

7 Reasons for Below Standard Performance

below standard performanceBelow standard performance, and dealing with it, is one of the biggest headaches for any organisation. It is the job of the leader to cultivate people who consistently perform to a high standard. A good leader motivates his people to go the extra mile and achieve excellence. Ultimately the way the leader achieves this is by caring for and growing his/her people. A leader who does this will cultivate people who consistently perform above standard.

Care means having a genuine concern for the well being and success of one’s subordinates, not just viewing them as a means to make money or get good results. Growth means giving people all that they require to flourish and improve themselves professionally (and even personally). Practically, growth involves providing the means and ability to people, but also, crucially, holding them accountable.

There are really 7 core reasons for poor performance. When dealing with performance issues it is very important to properly identify which of these 7 reasons is at issue.

  1. Performance will be below standard if people do not feel cared for:

Care is an essential ingredient in maintaining willingness. Performance will not be consistently high they are not willing to go the extra mile. Care means that the subordinate is convinced that the boss is genuinely invested in them and that their dominant intent is not just to use the employee to produce the result.

If a person gets the sense that the leader is just there to milk them for as much as possible, then they will not be willing to go the extra mile and will instead attempt to get as much as possible for giving as little as possible. This will have a direct and negative impact on their performance.

  1. Performance will be below standard if people are not given the required means:

In an organisational setting means include things such as tools, resources, standards, authority, etc. It should be self-evident that a leader who does not ensure that their employees have all the means they require to do their job well will get the standards of performance they deserve.

Not only does lacking the appropriate means make it much more difficult for people to do their job, but it also results in decreased engagement as people feel unsupported, and may even become resentful, which will have a very negative impact on performance.

  1. Performance will be below standard if people do not have the ability:

In an organisational setting, we use the term “ability” to refer both to the how and the why. Ensuring staff has the ability to do their jobs means teaching them how to do it, but also teaching them why they should be doing. The “why” is needed because people need a reason or purpose for coming to work in the morning; a reason that is bigger than just getting paid. This allows them to find meaning in their work and therefore become committed to it.

If staff are not given the ability then they will, firstly, lack the required skills to do the job. Not only will their performance be below standard, but they will not enjoy the work and will get a sense that they are incompetent, which will affect their engagement.

Secondly, if they lack the “why”, then they will not experience that their work has any meaning other than getting a pay check at the end of the month, and this will also have a very negative impact on their engagement and commitment. This will have a negative impact on their performance.

  1. Performance will be below standard if people are not censured:

Censuring a person means giving them a warning. In organisations, people need to be warned as soon as they have acted carelessly. There should be a definite sense throughout the organisation that careless behaviour that impacts on performance will not be overlooked.

If people are not censured for careless behaviour then you are undermining carefulness, or careful attention paid to do the job well. A leader who fails to warn people creates the sense that carefulness doesn’t matter. If there is a sense that people can get away with being careless in an organisation, it undermines carefulness in the organisation. Why be careful when everyone gets away with being careless?

  1. below standard performancePerformance will be below standard if people are not disciplined:

Discipline involves taking active measures, the harshest being dismissal, for deliberately malevolent behaviour.  Malevolent behaviour is behaviour which can otherwise be referred to as intentional careless or self-serving behaviour, at the expense of the organisation. This includes things such as stealing, fraud, office sabotage, intentional absenteeism, sleeping on the job, etc.

Similarly to the previous point, if people do not get appropriately disciplined or dismissed for being deliberately malevolent, it produces a lack of commitment. It indicates that people’s contribution is of no account and it strongly dis-incentivises good behaviour and performance. This will have a strongly negative impact on performance.

  1. Performance will be below standard if people of not recognised:

It is appropriate, when people have met the standard and careful and diligent in doing their task, to praise them and recognise their diligence. This is about illustrating to people that you are aware of their contribution and that you appreciate it.

If people are not recognised for doing their job then it undermines the value of the contribution they have made and gives the experience that the contribution made is not worthy. This will undermine their commitment and will negatively impact their performance.

  1. Performance will be below standard if people are not rewarded:

People who go the extra mile and exceed expectation in terms of standards of performance should be rewarded. There is great value in a creative rewards initiative for excellent performance. The value of rewards is that it adds to the sense of achievement. It gives people the real sense that they have excelled and this is the greatest way to help them recreate that. A sense of achievement is a great catalyst for further achievement.

The failure to reward people for excellent performance will result in a sense that excelling goes unrecognised and that going the extra mile is not so much of an achievement. This will undermine those who wish to strive and go the extra mile because in such circumstances going the extra mile loses its value, it is no longer perceived as the achievement it is.

Assad holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a PhD candidate. He is the editor of the Schuitema blog and is a regular facilitator of the company's Care and Growth and Mentoring for Mastery programs. He also has 5 years experience lecturing and tutoring Philosophy at Wits.