Mirror, Mirror On The Wall - Why Do My Employees Come To Work At All?


Never before has it been so vital to deal with less than fabulous performance in our employees. Every organisation has to do more with less, every single day, as competition grows and customers are faced with endless choices.

Having even one employee coming to work unmotivated and only marginally productive will have an effect on the bottom line.   

But before we as Managers, Owners and/or Team Leaders rush into cracking the whip or looking for replacements for these slack people, there are a few questions that need to be asked:

  • WHY is this person not performing anywhere near their potential?
  • Is this a recent phenomenon, or have they always been this way?
  • If they have always been this way, why did we not pick up their laissez-faire attitude at the recruitment phase?
  • If it is a recent decline in productivity - what happened to cause the problem?

As an ex Personnel Manager and Human Resources manager, I am absolutely passionate about people. I believe that every single employee WANTS to get up in the morning feeling great about coming to work. I also believe every single employee would LOVE to be part of an awesome team. I also know that the best ideas often come from the shop floor (or office floor).....so if performance anywhere, isn't what it could be or should be, questions need to be asked.

What prevents employees from being able to be great as individuals and also what prevents our teams from being fabulous?

The first place to look is often the mirror. And for most Managers and Team Leaders this is the last place they would consider looking. However, if in the first instance you are willing to look at your management style, and having been brave enough to do that, if you are then also willing to look at what you have set up in your department or organization, you may find a few clues for you.

Sometimes we over-manage our people. We breathe down their necks every second of the day and then wonder why they make so many mistakes. Don't you make mistakes if someone is looking over your shoulder?

Or we may be one of those who micro-manage....we don't give any information, don't let people know how well (or not) they are doing and then wonder why their performance doesn't improve. It is very difficult to perform in a vacuum! People are not mind-readers. If you want something you need to let your people know; similarly if you DON'T want something, you also need to let them know. And being this honest is often hard to do.

You see today your role has changed beyond all recognition. Your role now as well as  being a MANAGER also needs to be that of coach and mentor. And if you have never had a coach or a mentor you don't know what that looks like; feels like or how it happens.

So here are a few things you can do to start your role as coach and mentor, and motivate the late, the lazy and the terminally uninspired employees in your team.

Firstly you can ask each employee these four questions:

  1. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
  2. What skills do you need to get there?
  3. How can I help/coach/mentor you (and delegate one of my boring jobs to you) in order for you to achieve that goal?
  4. When would you like to start?

In the Industrial Age our organizations were set up in what I call parent/child....manager in parent - employee acting and reacting in child. It takes a lot of time and too much energy to keep working in this strange fashion. Even the lowliest employee in every organization has a brain... tap into that. Every organisation  is wrestling with trying to do more with less, to work smarter not harder and yet we are masters (and mistresses) of our own demise. Employees are the answers to our  ‘next-giant-leap-in-thinking'.

In summary - create an environment where employees are not encouraged to bring forward ideas for improvement and they won't. Create an environment where they are expected to leave their brains at the door and they will.

Ricardo Semlar (author of Maverick) improved employee productivity from $10,200 per employee per year to $96,000 per employee per year. He did it by telling them what the goal of the company was, what their part in that was, when they were doing well and what they were not doing well. He encouraged people to speak up, to put forward ideas no matter how strange those ideas were, and he encouraged people to
come to work and take ownership of their part of the business...the results speak for themselves!

And I would like to leave readers with a thought:

 ‘I've come to realise how deeply employees long for a place where fun, energy and productivity drive out stress, boredom and burnout.'

Can you look in the mirror?



Ann Andrews CSP specialises in working with high performing teams and showing managers how to deal with poor performance.

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