Two Ways We Fail to Build Effective Employees

“Forgive us our sins of omission and our sins of commission.”
…sins of commission:  the things we did and shouldn’t have.
…sins of omission:  the sins of not doing what we should have.


So, I was sitting in church on Sunday, and my mind kept making connections from my thoughts in church to my work in the business arena.  (Once you start blogging, it seems like you are always thinking about your next new blog post).

So, here is one of my mind connections.

Good employees seldom arrive at a job fully developed.  Good employees need to be grown; to be built.

It seems to me that there are two ways to fail to “build” an employee.  One way is the path of the sins of commission.  To overtly mistreat an employee.  To take advantage, to abuse, to discriminate, to belittle.  I still like Tom Peters’ tweet about a consultant’s counsel to a leadership team:

Consultant called in for exec retreat. Enters, goes to white board, writes “DON’T BELITTLE;” turns and walks out. (YES!!!)

There are things that a leader, and/or a company does to an employee that are harmful – harmful to that employee, and ultimately harmful to the leader and to the company.  These fall under those “bad boss, “the no asshole rule” practices.  (The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton).

But there is another kind of failure. This is the path of the sins of omission.   It happens when a company hires an employee, and fails to give that employee the training, the resources, the encouragement, the mentoring and coaching needed to do the job effectively.  And it is this “sin” that might be the one that slips by so easily.  Generally, a boss/manager knows when he or she is mistreating an employee.  (Not always – but generally).  But the lack of encouragement, the lack of training, the lack of coaching…  This is one of those “I should have, but I was too busy to think about it” failures.

You know the solution to such sins, don’t you?  In church terms, it requires some old fashioned repentance.  In other words, you change your behavior.

So, are you mistreating your employees?  Then it’s time to stop.

So, are you failing to give your employees the encouragement, the training, the coaching, the resources they need to do their best work?  It’s time to start.

After all, what’s the use of hiring employees and then setting them up to fail?  That’s just bad business.


Also, check out Bob Morris’ blog post The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome: A book review by Bob Morris.  Her’s a key excerpt:

…supervisors are often unaware of the fact that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success. How? By creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Hence the title of the book. 

Manzoni and Barsoux assert that the set-up-to-fail syndrome is “both self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing, which obscures the boss’s responsibility in the process as well as some of the key psychological and social mechanisms involved.” My own experience suggests an often great discrepancy exists between modes of behavior determined by conscious and unconscious mindsets. That is to say, many supervisors would vehemently deny that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success….[by] creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Nonetheless they are. Were they to read this book, they would probably agree that there is such a syndrome and then lament how unfair it is to subordinates who are victimized by it.    

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