Rise Performance Group

Why Do Good People Underperform?

By Mark Fenner

Why Do Good People Underperform?

For a new hire, you may now be wondering what you saw in that person in the first place. For existing staffers, there may be a change for the worse in their performance, and you’re puzzling over why.

There are a few general reasons why someone is underperforming. Especially in the case of a new hire, maybe you just misread them and they really don’t have the capabilities you expected. Or perhaps the job – or a promotion or lateral move – just turned out to be a bad fit. There are other reasons, too; maybe the goals, objectives, and deliverables weren’t as clear as you thought. Or bad relationships developed between the employee in question and his or her manager or co-workers. Or maybe it’s the work atmosphere.

Let’s look briefly at each of these and how to prevent or deal with it:

  • Capabilities: A new hire might have overstated his or her capabilities from the start, and the mismatch didn’t become apparent until it was too late. The answer there is thorough assessments for all new hires and for anyone considered for a promotion, transfer, or change of roles.
  • Poor job fit: Assessments can also prevent this from happening. Even if a person has the right skills and capabilities, there may be a temperament mismatch or a bad cultural fit to the team. Behavioral assessments can spot that, especially when the existing team members take the same assessment, so you can determine the prevailing behaviors and characteristics of a successful team.
  • Unclear goals and objectives: The thing to remember is that goals should be realistic; they should be very specific, not vague; and what you expect from someone should be measurable, and framed within a clear timeframe, in order to determine success.
  • Bad relationships: Between a supervisor and employee, this could be a communication problem or a style problem, and should be addressed from both directions. Between team members, it may have been triggered by some kind of change, whether that is a new team member, or a new supervisor, or some change in a team member’s role or even events outside the office, in their personal life. It may require a little detective work, but the source of the problem can usually be found.
  • Work atmosphere: Maybe your company thrives on energy, drama, and near-chaos, but a new employee prefers quiet and orderliness. Or maybe you’ve changed the workplace physical layout, and it just doesn’t work for one or more employees. These kinds of issues can be prevented through behavioral assessments, as you find out what environment works best both for existing and potential employees.

There are, of course, many other (and more complicated) reasons why someone might be or has become an underperformer. But most fall into one of the reasons listed above. Which is why it is so important to do behavioral assessments and do them regularly, both for job candidates and existing staff. Assessments reveal a lot that you may not have realized about your company’s and your teams’ cultures, and can go a long way in preventing underperformance problems.

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