Updated: Jan 24
Picture this: a scheduled meeting is due to start at 8am. But by 8, only 60% of your team has arrived. You, the leader, decide to give the late-comers a few more minutes. Over the next 15 minutes, the rest of your team trickles in. In the interest of moving things along, you notice those who were late but do not say anything, choosing instead to start your meeting. The late- comers are not held accountable and have no reason to arrive on time for the next meeting. Even worse, those who arrived on time begin to wonder why they should appear promptly only to sit around and wait. They might even start to think that it will be okay if they are late to the next meeting themselves!
Why would any leader, like the boss in the above scenario, reward an employee for poor or unwanted behavior such as arriving late? Usually it’s one of two reasons: either it’s the path of least resistance, or the leader does not understand the unintended consequences of their actions. Often, it’s a combination of both.
Let’s look at another example. You delegate a task to an employee. This employee whines and complains, takes a long time to complete the task, or purposefully makes a mistake. Obviously, these are unwanted behaviors! As a result, the next time you have a task to delegate, you look to other workers instead of this employee. You have taken the path of least resistance. You have also rewarded this employee’s poor behavior.
know of a leader who gave a raise in reaction to an employee’s poor performance. This leader hoped to motivate the worker. However, within three days that employee fell back into old, poor habits. And why wouldn’t she? She had been rewarded for doing her job poorly.
So how can you avoid falling into the trap of least resistance and rewarding unwanted behavior?
No one likes conflict or having an uncomfortable conversation. But as the boss, it’s your job to deal with your team head-on when they perform poorly or exhibit an unwanted behavior. Make sure to deal with problems early while they are still problems—if you wait too long, they might become habits! Keep your expectations clear and communicated frequently, as well as the consequences if those expectations are not met. Most importantly, follow through on those consequences!
Most of the time when employees are not doing what they should be doing, it is because the leaders are not doing what they should be doing! In my book, Leaders Are MADE, Not Born, and my training seminar, Why Don’t Employees Perform as Expected? I highlight many occasions of leaders not doing what they should be doing and then blaming their employees. Want to learn more? Contact me today!