There’s a term that’s been bantered about that I find rather interesting: “Overcompensating for incompetence.”
This is how it works: a person isn’t doing the job, so the boss does it for them.
Somehow this term seems like an oxymoron because if the boss was competent, then he/she wouldn’t be overcompensating. They’d be fixing the problem. Right?
But no. These particular bosses often take the path of least resistance by doing the task and then complain that they have incompetent people. The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that there are a lot of people who are overcompensating for incompetence and don’t even know it! But their actions speak volumes.
Looks Good On The Surface
I read about a CEO who proudly encourages employees to send him emails and he will personally respond to each one. Keeping his phone beside his bed, he proclaims that “before going to sleep you don’t say your prayers, you check your email.” (I’m not going to comment on that sad statement!) And upon responding to a staffer’s email after 11pm, he closed by saying “go to bed – you shouldn’t be up this late dealing with my emails.” For heaven’s sake, doesn’t he know that people model the boss’ behavior so they can be promoted???
Interestingly, this same company’s web site touts a family friendly environment and the opportunity for people to realize their full potential by providing an environment that encourages risk taking, taking initiative to see that things are done right, teamwork and of course, open communication.
So I ask you, if this environment was actually functioning according to the intent and core values, why would the CEO have the need to be so hands-on with the line employees? What are all the mid-level managers and executives doing? On the surface, it looks like he’s a hero who’s in touch with his employees. But isn’t this just another way to overcompensate for underperformers? Or compensating for a lack of trust in his managers and the communication process?
Align Your Thoughts, Words And Actions
Big organization or small, it doesn’t make any difference. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Companies will never get the results they really want unless their thoughts, words and actions are aligned.
Several organizational leaders I have worked with have fallen prey to this dilemma of overcompensating for underperformers. They have a lead person or manager who’s been given the responsibility for hiring and firing, yet positions remain open with not a candidate in sight. Or that underperformer who everyone acknowledges as a slacker, continues to slide by under the radar screen, month after month. A typical response is to throw up their hands and say -: “I’ll just do it myself…” Talk about sending mixed messages!
“I’ll tell you you’re responsible for hiring and firing. I’ll pay you more for that responsibility. And when you don’t do it, I’ll do it for you.” Sounds like a deal to me!
Where are you overcompensating for underperformers?
2 Ways To Change The Pattern
If you feel like you’re working too hard and everyone else is going home without a care in the world, maybe you’re doing their work too! If that’s the case, here are two steps to change that pattern.
1) Communicated your expectations to the person. Make sure you’re clear about what you want.
It reminds me of my human resource days helping a sales manager who was frustrated with a sales rep who wasn’t working his territory. He told the rep: “I want to see miles on the car!” The rep took his wife, “Babe” and put miles on the car. And his expense account showed all the great places they ate. Babe never had it so good. And the manager got what he asked for – miles on the car.
Silly but true and my guess is you or your managers say equally silly things every day.
2) Hold them accountable for performing the job. Is it harder for you to do your work and theirs or to hold them accountable? Which would provide less stress for you? Which would be better for your organization?
Until you’re willing to communicate your expectations and hold them accountable, you’re the one who’s underperforming.
Marty Stanley is a national speaker and consultant on organizational change. Call her today if want a culture of accountability and peak performance. 816-695-5453 firstname.lastname@example.org