3 Excuses Underperformers Use

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man_face_shruggingYour office is a great place to study human nature and it’s influence on how work is performed. You don’t need a degree in Psychiatry to quickly discern the differences in personal accountability and drive displayed by fellow co-workers and company leadership. However, this process of discovery can be unsettling and disturbing to some. Like on the occasion when catastrophe strikes. There are those who will step forward to shoulder the extra work load and those who will find an excuse to bow out. The latter are the “underperformers” and they’re easy to spot.

I’ve seen my share of underperformers during the course of my career. They’re all ages, men and women from all levels within the work force. From Interns to corporate CEOs.

Here are the 3 excuses (in no particular order).

Excuse #1 – begins with “I can’t because . . .”
This excuse is usually the first one out of an underperformers mouth. And with good reason. It’s the “Big Daddy” of all excuses and implies a conflict of some kind. Overcoming schedule changes and resolving conflicts is what we all do to stay in the game isn’t it? If almost every situation is met with the excuse “I can’t because . . . ” look closely at this individual’s history as a team player and level of performance. Is their quality of work good and do they want to get the job done no matter what it takes? Conversely, life will throw some events at us that can’t be changed or rescheduled. But if an individual does not recognize the difference and defaults to excuse making then it’s highly likely he or she is an underperformer.

Excuse #2 – begins with “I won’t . . .”
This excuse is unique because it borders on being dismissive. An underperformer typically does not want to be responsible or accountable. An underperformer may use these opportunities simply to divest themselves of work assignments. I have attended meetings in the past where everyone in the room walked out with more work – except the underperformer who walked out with less. If you think this is an isolated situation or an accident then think again.

Excuse #3 – begins with “I don’t know how . . .”

This excuse may be the worst of the excuses I’ve listed here. I dislike this excuse because it suggests that an individual is incapable of learning new skills quickly. Really? Come on! I remember a college Graphic Design professor of mine who once offered this advice: “if you don’t have a skill for a job, practice it each night until you were good at it”. That advice really stuck with me. So for those underperformers who believe they cannot learn or it’s someone else’s responsibility to teach them I say – baloney.

The Cure
For companies that make outstanding products and expect their employees to be equally great an underperformer is an anomaly and highly undesired. Training Magazine recently created an excellent online guide which addresses underperformers and what companies can do to remedy this growing problem. Also, Women 2.0 wrote an excellent article on this topic Women 2.0.

There are going to be those who read this and claim it’s “Old School” thinking. But the reality is this: companies want a good return for their investment in labor. Can you blame them? As the world becomes increasingly competitive we must choose to be productive and accountable.

That is the best way to compete – and win.

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