We all struggle at one time or another. It may be that project you keep putting off because you can’t seem to identify next steps to move it forward. It may be that spreadsheet calculation you got wrong that was discovered by a board member. It may be last quarter’s budget that you went over by ten percent and now are scrambling to reduce costs. Or it could simply be a professional relationship that seems to have deteriorated. Regardless of the reason, there are times in our professional career that we seem to struggle with one thing or another. (The same could be said for our personal responsibilities and relationships too.)

What I find fascinating as it relates to performance problems in the workplace is the research that shows time and time again that many of the workplace performance problems we and our colleagues face are largely outside of our control. 50 years of research (starting with Thomas Gilbert and heavily influenced by others like Roger Chevalier) show that performance is influenced by six primary factors. Three of them are environmental (outside of us) and three of them are personal (inside of us). They are:

  • Information- do we have clear expectations and consistent feedback on the job we are to perform?
  • Resources- do we have the necessary hardware, software, and other tools to do the job?
  • Incentives- do we have both monetary and non-monetary incentives to do the job?
  • Motives- do we have the proper intrinsic motivation to perform the job?
  • Capacity- do we have the necessary skills and competencies to do the job?
  • Knowledge- do we have adequate training and know-how to perform the job?

If you put these factors on a see-saw with performance results on one side and the 6 factors in order on the other side you can see how any one or combination of performance factors could posititively impact a worker’s performance (make their performance go up).

You should also take note that impact and cost differ depending on which performance lever you are attempting to influence.

What may be surprising about these factors to performance is that most of the performance problems employees experience at work largely have to do with environmental factors outside of their control. 74% to be exact. When workers are given a multiple choice prompt: “I would perform my job better if…” three quarters of respondents indicate that if they were given clear expectations and more consistent feedback from management they would be able to perform better.

So, as you are considering what you or someone who works for you or with you needs to improve. Keep in mind that most of our workplace performance problems could be solved (or at least diminished) if management would simply provide clear job expectations and feedback (information) and the tools we need to do the job (resources).

Start there and much of the workplace experience could be improved.

Published by Jerrod Guddat

I love learning, collaboration, and improving workplace performance. You can usually find me reading a book or opposing points of view on the internet. I typically assume my ideas are flawed until proven otherwise. :-)

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