By Anja van den Berg
No matter how talented someone might be, there is no guarantee that his or her talents will translate into top performance. According to Gallup research, an astounding 70% of employees are not committed to delivering their best performance.
The truth is that most people are not even bothered to try their best after they have been on the job for more than six months – a time-frame known as the honeymoon period, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology and author of Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It).
Although many factors play a role in professional underperformance, Chamorro-Premuzic underlines the three most common causes:
- Companies don’t understand person-job-fit
Talent is mainly personality in the right place, Chamorro-Premuzic says, which explains why most people will do better in some jobs, cultures, and contexts than in others.
“Organisational psychologists call this person-job-fit, and it is measured by quantifying the degree of alignment between a person’s attitudes, values, abilities, and dispositions on the one hand, and the characteristics of the job, role, and organisation on the other.”
The problem is that, even when organisations evaluate the candidate correctly, they are often not as good at evaluating the role, and particularly their own culture.
- Disengagement due to poor management
Although a common side-effect of poor fit is disengagement, one of the most common drivers of disengagement is poor leadership. Management malfunction, Chamorro-Premuzic says, explains not just why so many people underperform at work, but also why star employees quit their jobs – and even traditional employment – altogether.
Leaders inspire and mentor, provide objective and constructive feedback on performance, and drum up excitement amongst their team. “Even if your boss is capable of doing all these things, they may not be engaged themselves, perhaps because they work for an incompetent leader or someone who is not engaged.”
- Organisational politics
Business leaders rejoice in the idea that their companies are talent magnets, Chamorro-Premuzic says, “but the reality is that, even when they are able to draw star performers into their companies, those stars will have to learn how to navigate the toxic and nepotistic side of any culture — including some basic degree of organisational politics.”
In general, the more contaminated and corrosive the culture of an organisation, the more parasitic individuals will rise, much like bacteria thrive in contaminated environments.
Most of the reasons employees underperform are related to the company not being proactive about encouraging them in the workplace, says Jay Forte, a certified life and workplace coach.
“We have to provide what employees need to do their jobs well – every time, all the time. We also have to provide that important emotional connection – helping an employee apply his or her heart to the work, workplace, manager and team.”
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/03/4-reasons-talented-employees-dont-reach-their-potential
Fast Company: https://www.fastcompany.com/3054213/three-reasons-why-you-arent-reaching-your-full-potential
Cornerstone on Demand: https://www.cornerstoneondemand.com/rework/star-employees-quit-when-we-dont-give-them-reasons-stay