Stop Punishing Under-Performance and Start Changing Behaviours to Boost Productivity


It is commonplace in business to punish under-performance. It seems fair. If a child spills milk, spank the child for being careless. But neither makes any sense. If the child purposely poured milk over a siblings head, that's one thing. But if it was accidental, should our response be to punish or change the behaviour? The same is true at work. Should we be punishing under-achievers? NO! We should be changing their behaviours.

Example: A good client of mine did not send a couple of their largest divisions to my productivity seminars. I asked why and found out those divisions were under-performing; so their budget for attending seminars was cut. Think about it. They are not being productive, so leadership's response was to NOT send them to seminars that would make them productive. If someone was illiterate would you punish them by not sending them to literacy courses? 

While this example seems obvious (it sure was not to my client's top leadership), why then do we only send top achievers to Achievers Clubs at swank resorts where they get awesome motivation and ideas to do even better? Ahh... they earned it and it's an incentive. I like it! 

But then, if we do not give the same information to the under-performers, why are we surprised when they under-perform? I'm not saying we should not have the Achiever's Clubs or send everyone (watering down the reward). No way! I am the product of these Achiever's Clubs in the 1970s when I was in sales and I know they work. 

But content, good information, training should NOT be withheld from the people who need it most. That is punishing them for under-performing and making it almost impossible for them to break the cycle.


Alternative: Do not make content and information something that someone has to qualify for to receive. Make it available to ALL. Those who USE it will excel and those who choose not to use it will flounder. The punishment is tied to the lack of effort or lack of implementation, not to the availability of the information. 

What then should top performers do at Achievement Clubs? Have fun! Give them some extra motivation. Let them get the information first and LIVE. Record the events and put the information on your HR Intranet available to all. Those who see the posh event, fine dinners and beautiful resort will be further motivated to work hard to attend the next one. This way, everyone gets the content. 

Please, let's not punish the people who need the most encouragement by depriving them of the very tools they need to succeed. 


Smile Makers of the week: More funny American car bumper stickers

  • Remember half the people you know are below average.
  • Despite the high cost of living, have you noticed how popular it still is?
  • Atheism is a non-prophet organisation.
  • He who laughs last thinks slowest.
  • Borrow money from pessimists: They don't expect it back.
  • Nothing is foolproof to a talented fool.


Michael Podolinsky CSP 


Michael Podolinsky CSP is a speaker and published author. He passionately develops productive leaders and teams

You may also like:

Filed under HR Management. Posted by The Corporate Toolbox on