11 Reasons Why Employees Don’t Do the Job

11 Reasons Why Employees Don’t Do the Job

Determining the cause of a performance issue can be like being a detective– here is a list of 11 major reasons employees “don’t do the job” with possible solutions.

Source: Expectations

1. They don’t know what to do
2. They think they are doing it
Solution: I read many job descriptions—hundreds per year from dozens of organizations—rarely do they clarify for me the specific job activities and key results areas, much less how the job will be measured. It is difficult to hold someone accountable to results when the manager has not made it crystal clear what those results should be and what s/he has to do to get those results. Otherwise employees just take their best guess and do what seems to be the most urgent.

3. They think something else is more important
Solution: A great survey report showed that employees only agree with managers on 1 out of 3 priorities! Frequent coaching and follow up makes sure that what a person is working on is the highest priority for the job and department. An employee does the best she can reading the tea leaves to guess what her manager thinks is priority. Don’t make them guess… also, remember employees often don’t have the broader view or much information outside of their own activities (and yes, the more they do the better decisions they will make.)

Source: Training

4. They don’t know how to do it
Solution: Work with employee to identify skill or competency to enhance with training, create a training plan with a timeline and hold employee accountable to stick to the plan (even if it means reminding her manager to schedule the time or resources).

5. They are uncomfortable doing it
Solution: Sometimes a little training can increase someone’s confidence and they become “comfortable” with the task and then perform it regularly. More likely this is a symptom of job fit—someone’s personality traits or competencies are not aligned with those required to excel in the job. A classic example is “asking for the sale”— a person who is cooperative (lower assertive) can be trained for years on sales techniques and given scripts, but he is always uncomfortable closing. For job fit, the remedy is to change the job duties to ones that correspond with the person’s strengths and attributes.

6. They lack the competency needed to do it 

Solution: Depending on the type of competency, the person may benefit from more training and development. However, many competencies are a function of personality traits that are ingrained and difficult to change even with extensive training. For example, “planning and organizing” is a set of traits and habits that your employee may not have and will be challenged to overcome in a role that requires tracking and pacing their work on month-long project. In many cases, the solution is finding a better job fit for the incumbent’s competencies.

Source: Feedback/ Recognition

7. They can do it but don’t want to
8. They are rewarded for not doing it
9. They are not rewarded when they do it

Solution: This is fundamental psychology. People do what is measured and recognized and rewarded. If they are not rewarded (or worse, “punished”) for doing something, most people stop doing it. Sales people don’t like to do paperwork—but they also don’t want to be reminded that they were late 9 of the last 10 weeks—this is powerful feedback.

Often the signals sent by managers are unintended. Do you reward your poor performers by giving extra work to others that you can depend on? Do you remember to praise and even publicly recognize the team that worked last weekend to finish up a project?

Source: Belief

10. They don’t know why they should do it

Solution: Some people will blindly follow rules, but most want to know the “why” behind something that they are asked to do. It they believe a task or process is x (insert label here: low importance, arbitrary, a waste of time, or just plain stupid), no amount of training will effect a change in behavior. You might get begrudging compliance but that is about it. To get commitment, you have to explain the “why” to change the belief. (Until they believe his IS important, worth my time, etc.)

11. They think their way is better.

Solution: Read the solution above… plus this often happens when you ask someone who is good/ comfortable with the “old way” and now you have a “new way.” And in the beginning, the old way is better since an employee is more comfortable and competent in the old way. A big part of culture change and process change is to overcome the belief that the old way is better.

A key personality trait is openness to new experiences and some people are not. They will cling to the things they know how to do. As a manager you will need to support and coach these employees through the pain and fear that comes with change. Recognize that this is more deep seeded than just a training issue, but a consistent personality trait or a cognitive filter (belief) and be patient and supportive, and work through changing the belief, not just behavior.

As a client’s manager once stated, “if we have 100 people then we have 100 different personalities.” It’s your job as a manager to figure out what is the cause and the solution that works for all the unique individuals on your team.

Related Articles:

Article: 8 Reasons You Are Stuck in the Day to Day and Don’t Have a Reliable Team

Related Resources:

Download the “Guide to Building Your Team: Right People in the Right Jobs”

8 Reasons You're Stuck in the day-to-day and don't have a team to rely on

Read the Short Guide

He seems disorganized… after one year

He seems disorganized… after one year

A client was mentioning his frustration with a fairly new employee, when these words were uttered “He seems disorganized, after one year.“

This person had 5 years of experience in a similar role and was hired with high expectations to come onboard, quickly learn the job, and start taking on more client work and responsibility to free up the owner’s time.

But you may have been in this situation before.

The person takes a bit more time than expected to “learn” the job (or at least your systems and procedures). And he does the activities of the job adequately, but doesn’t achieve the results you expected. Or take on a larger role or more responsibility that you would like.

So you spend more time monitoring and coordinating work, and feel like you still can’t delegate anything off your to-do list.

He is a stable employee in the role but the growth and impact is not what you wanted at one year.

So you are questioning the root cause of the performance gap:

  • Are the expectations clear?
  • Does this person want the role I thought I hired him for?
  • Will training help?
  • Is this even the right person?

This is a challenge for even the most seasoned People Coach.

To uncover the true cause of the gap between what an employee is doing and what you expect in the role, you need to “evaluate for job fit.”

To assist in this detective work, I have created an article and template to guide you.

Download the “Job Fit Performance Maximizer” here.


Employee’s want feedback – really!

Employee’s want feedback – really!

Doing performance coaching right means 42% higher productivity.” (Bersin report: High-Impact Performance Management: Using Goals to Focus the 21st-Century Workforce)

The jury is not still out, the key to the care and feeding of great employees is coaching them clearly, positively and often.

In fact, based on a recent survey, the Zenger Folkman group (authors of the Exceptional Leadership book) that employees had a preference for receiving corrective feedback 3 times the level of their preference for receiving positive feedback!

Are you avoiding that corrective feedback? You are actually doing more harm ignoring your staff than just being honest and coaching them where they need it.

Some Zenger Folkman statistics- based on the best and worst leaders (as givers of feedback):

Engagement measure

Worst leaders
(10th percentile)

Top leaders
(90th percentile)

Intent to quit



Perceived opportunities



Feel fairly treated



If you avoid giving feedback (corrective or positive) then this has a dramatic negative impact on the performance of your team.

What should they prioritize? How can they know how to improve? How can they feel challenged?

You can evaluate your own preferences for giving and receiving feedback with this short assessment.

If you find that you are avoiding giving feedback, you may want to develop these skills to enhance your team’s performance and ultimately your job performance, too.

12 No Cost Ways to Reward Your Employees

12 No Cost Ways to Reward Your Employees

The beginning of a new year and also that time of year when employee thoughts turn to… (well on the East Coast everyone is thinking wistfully of spring) “When am I going to get a pay increase?”

Thanks to 50 years of prosperity and a small dose of influence from union contracts, the American worker has been conditioned into thinking (expecting) that they will get a regularly schedule raise in pay in January. The legacy of 20 years of consistent pay practices lives on.

I don’t need to rehash the economic news of the last 6 years, but pay increases since 2008 have been well below the former 3% standard set by the prosperous years, and wage freezes and 18-24 spans between increases are fairly common.

If you are smaller employer or one who has limited profits to continually raise your payroll budget 3% every year, how will you possibly attract great people and retain your top performers?

The good news is that you actually have 12 non-financial ways to reward your employees. Here is a list with some possible solutions.

1. Voluntary (employee paid) benefits—many employers now offer the option for employees to purchase additional benefits at their own cost. The employee typically receives a lower cost for the coverage and it may have tax advantages.

Solution- insurance plans- dental insurance, long term disability or life insurance

2. Work itself– the number one factor in job satisfaction is a sense of achievement. Ask employees how you can improve their work with more variety, sense of purpose or meaning, and challenging assignments

Solution- give your high potential employee a project to manage

3. Autonomy— show of hands- who likes to be micromanaged? Anyone? If you train someone and give appropriate guidelines you can trust the work will be done as needed.

Solution: consider the last 5 questions that someone “ran by you” – is there nugget of wisdom you can share so that you do not have to be consulted or are you just being the chief problem solver?

4. Work load— are you overloading your best performer because she will always take on more and get it done? Does this sound like a recipe for burnout?

Solution: ask your busiest person what you can take off their plate, and then create a plan to do this immediately

5. Resources one of the top reasons people leave their job is because they do not have the tools to do the job properly

Solution: have a meeting to list out hassles and pick the biggest time waster to that inexpensive resources or tools will improve

6. Reliable coworkers– If you have ever worked with someone is who not pulling their weight, then you know how this can make you hopping mad. People have one of three responses: work harder and put up with the slacker, work less so that you don’t feel taken advantage of, or look for another job. If you allow lower contributions you are actually driving out the good performers. And then you are left with the lowest ones.

Solution: If you know who is your weakest link do not wait to have a crucial conversation (see feedback below). Sometimes you have a sense someone is not doing their best but others cover for that person so you don’t know the full extent of the gap. Also allow confidential opportunities to get this feedback from your team.

7. Performance discussions- Yes everyone hates the “performance review,” but on the flip side employees want the opportunity to talk about their role, aspirations and to be appreciated for all their hard work.

Solution: change up your process- stop focusing so much on putting a numerical rating on last year, and more about how the last year provided insights for how to reach goals for this year. I when I say goals I mean how the employee can reach his/her goals within the job.

8. Feedback- Employees expect you to tell them right away if they are not meeting expectations. And they should expect that you deliver this feedback in a positive and constructive manner.

Solution: If you are not comfortable delivering constructive feedback then I suggest reading a few books (101 Tough Conversations is a good start) and then starting small. Trust me, your other employees will thank you for finally have those crucial conversations.

9. Recognition- Timely and targeted public praise is only the cheapest and most powerful reward tool a manager has. If you don’t know what to recognize then you need to sit down and make a list of what behaviors will reach your organization’s goals this year.

Solution: Be on the lookout for a person that did something terrific that is on your list of things to recognize, and publicly praise in your weekly team meeting (you have one, right?)

10. Training and development– Most people want to feel that we are “good” at our job and will be frustrated or demoralized if something is too difficult. A lack of challenging work is also a main reason people look for another job, so you may want to continually upgrade the knowledge and skills so that people don’t get bored. It’s a win-win- employees feel valued and broaden their knowledge and capability, and now you have an employee who can contribute and perform more.

Solution: employees may not be open about their so you want to ask find out what training would dramatically improve performance or if they want a new challenge.

11. Opportunity for Advancement– Surveys show that about half of employees feel there is not a chance for promotion at their employer. For the generation Y who will comprise almost half the workers in the US, a clear career path and opportunities to advance is the top reason for job engagement.

Solutions: If you want people to be loyal, committed and willing to go above and beyond (aka engaged), identify and share the “next” job (not necessarily in management), the change in duties and responsibility, and a training plan to develop into that role.

12. A great boss (I mean coach)- as the saying goes, people leave supervisors, not companies. If you feel unappreciated, criticized, or just plain frustrated by your direct manager you will consider looking for a new one. Coaches are clear about the goals, deliver feedback and train in a positive supportive and appreciative way, and focus on improvement.

Solution: There are so many books and training on how to be a coach and not a boss, but it might help to ask some of the employees you trust where you should work first. We all have blind spots and perhaps a few key changes will dramatically change how you are perceived and the impact you make.

Want to learn more about how to use Total Rewards to attract, engage and retain your best teammates?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Resources – Evaluating & Coaching Your Team

In this module you will compare an employee’s performance with the job expectations, and consider performance strengths and gaps.


Training 3 – Evaluate Your Team for Job Fit

In this video you will learn:

  • How to gather information about an employee’s talents and traits.
  • An easy system to identify areas of Job Fit and causes of performance gaps.
  • 10 reasons employees aren’t doing their job — and a solution for each.
  • A specific process to determine if training is a solution.

Training 4 – Coaching Your Team for Top Performance

In this video you will learn:

  • What is expected in the role of a “modern” manager.
  • Should you be a “jerk” or be “nice? Why neither is an effective style and what to do instead.
  • 9 benefits of coaching and performance discussions—for managers and staff.
  • Role and when to use the 3 major types of feedback


Articles/ resources


To your People success,

-Diana Southall, People Coach and creator of the People Plan™


If you are ready to create your own People Plan, learn more about our Toolkit resources.