Whose Fault Is It When An Employee “Fails?”

Whose fault is it when an employee “fails”?

Was it the employee’s fault? The hiring manager? The current manager who doesn’t understand how to set up the employee for success? Is it the leader of the company whose vision doesn’t inspire, whose systems don’t work?

Some of the greatest thinkers of all time place most of the blame on leaders, managers and systems.

Edward Deming believed that in manufacturing companies only 6% of errors were caused by employees. The rest, he said, were system design problems which must be addressed by leaders and managers. The system needs to be improved.

Don Clifton theorized in “Soar With Your Strengths” (chapter 7) that there may be no such thing as failure–only misalignment of expectations and capabilities. If a manager expects things that a person is capable of delivering, and rewards it when it happens, there will be success, not failure. If you expect the wrong thing, something the employee is not capable of, well, then, it’s on you.

Peter Drucker said the role of the manager is not to get people to do things they’re not capable of doing, but rather tap into any abilities and motivations that they naturally have.

Next time you fire someone, read this.

Then honestly ask yourself, “Who or what really failed here?”

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