Ken Burgin

Why Employees Don’t Do What You Want Them to Do…

This issue came up again at a recent Smart Operator Workshop, with a frustrated owner venting about ‘millennials’ and their lack of work ethic and motivation: ‘I train them and they don’t listen – just keep doing whatever they want’. And this person is a millennial himself!

In fact, poor performance is usually quite logical, and staff are just doing what makes sense to them. The classic book Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed To, And What You Can Do About It covers 16 situations that drive you crazy, and shows the logical way to address them.

Many of the 16 are obvious, and so are the solutions when the issue is clear. Here’s the list, and a solution hint in brackets:

  1. They don’t know why they should do it (explain)
  2. They don’t know how to do it (train)
  3. They don’t know what they’re supposed to do (give directions)
  4. They think your way will not work (demonstrate)
  5. They think their way is better (demonstrate and discuss)
  6. They think something else is more important (explain)
  7. There is no positive consequence for them doing it (reward)
  8. They think they are doing it (explain and demonstrate)
  9. They are rewarded for not doing it (change consequences)
  10. They are punished for doing what they’re supposed to do (change  consequences)
  11. They anticipate a negative consequence for doing it (change)
  12. There is no negative consequence for poor performance (add consequences)
  13. There are obstacles to doing it beyond their control (remove)
  14. Their personal limits prevent them from performing (train or replace)
  15. Personal problems prevent them doing it (train or replace)
  16. No-one could do it (review the task)

Solving all 16 would need a very long article (hence the book!), but the list is a powerful way to start thinking more logically and move beyond the generations blame game.


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