9 Reasons People Don't Do What They Are Supposed to Do

By Julie Rains on 22 October 2011 (Updated 10 November 2011) 0 comments
Photo: jwblinn

Ever noticed that people don’t always do what they are supposed to do?

Whether you have recently hired new employees for the first time or have lengthy experience in leading teams comprised of full-time, permanent staff plus contract workers, you may encounter situations in which people don’t do what they’ve been asked to do. Here are common scenarios and suggested fixes.

1. He is unable to change his habits, which are ingrained in how he executes day-to-day tasks. Frequent reminders, retraining, and disciplinary actions have no lasting impact.

Fix: Make changes to the environment and sequencing of work to break outdated, unwanted patterns of behavior. Remove the temptation (perhaps an improperly used tool or always-on website), rather than keep asking the employee to break bad habits.

2. She misunderstands the nature and scope of her work. Sadly, instead of asking questions or signaling her confusion, she muddles through each day. Though her focus should be on figuring out how to accomplish specific goals, co-workers and vendors dictate her priorities.

Fix: Clarify your expectations for her position, updating and refining her job description as needed. Coach her on techniques for dealing with outside pressures. Confirm that you will provide direction and support but make sure that she develops the ability to stand on her own without your continual intervention.

3. He is in a hurry. For whatever reason, he wants coworkers and vendors to execute his ideas quickly. He may have had a late-in-the-season epiphany for a marketing campaign or new product introduction. Or timelines are generally inconsequential to him.

Fix: Establish firm lead times that are nonnegotiable, especially if certain ideas require execution by work areas with limited resources. Alternatively, establish processes to execute quick turnaround on ideas with high ROI potential outside of your regular workflow.

4. She lacks discernment and is unable to sort through what’s important and what’s insignificant. Overloaded with information and short on insights, she waffles on decisions, defers action under she gets more clarity, and chooses unwisely.

Fix: Provide regular coaching sessions to step her through the process of making sound decisions consistent with your company’s mission and its values. Communicate direction and get involved in helping her make difficult choices early rather than later.

5. He is not getting the information he needs. System glitches and ill-designed reports prevent him from getting alerts, exception reports, and so on in a timely manner. The information that he does receive takes hours to analyze in order to get relevant facts needed to do his job.

Fix: Don’t underestimate the need for timely, accurate information. Make sure your technology team solves these information problems quickly. While waiting for a strategic IT solution, develop a workaround that speeds up the reporting process.

6. She doesn’t trust your judgment. Specifically, she believes that your guidelines are inappropriate based on her perception of customer needs and company’s brand positioning. So she ignores your instructions and continually does things her way, which she believes provides a superior experience to the customer and upholds the brand message more appropriately.

Fix: Clarify her sphere of influence and reiterate your brand promise distinct from her desires. Plus, give her honest, quantitative feedback on her effectiveness. Set objective, quantitative goals that measure her performance objectively, rather than allowing her to rely a general feeling that she is a doing a good job, serving the customer well, and preserving the integrity of the brand promise.

7. His workload is overwhelming. Because he feels that that he can’t possibly complete all of his work, he tends to focus on tasks that he enjoys and finishes assignments that benefit the most demanding (rather than the most important) customers. Other items are left to languish, eventually causing problems.

Fix: Evaluate workload for feasibility and make adjustments if necessary. Establish quality and timeline expectations so that proper emphasis is placed on assignments and areas of accountability. Schedule periodic progress reviews on longer-term projects to make sure that there are no surprises close to deadlines.

8. It’s complicated. The assignment is so out of the ordinary and complex that she doesn’t know where to begin, so she delays the start. Plus, her regular workload keeps her so busy that there is little time to really consider how to tackle this project.

Fix: Move mundane tasks to another employee so that she can have time to develop the project plan. Encourage her to ask questions so that you can share your knowledge, point to resources, and help narrow decisions.

9. The wrong person is in the job. You discover that he doesn’t have the problem-solving abilities, mental courage, or leadership abilities that you thought he did when you hired him. He doesn’t really understand how to bring innovation to the company, which you need now more than ever.

Fix: Realize that not all problems can be remedied by changes in your approach. Instead of struggling with a difficult person who is slow to adapt to new circumstances, can’t sort through workload without hand-holding, and the like, change the assignments of your staff members or find a replacement who can do what he is supposed to do.

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