5 Questions About “People Problems”

When expectations are not met, we react. A team member doesn’t pull their weight. A frustrated employee responds with a passive aggressive approach by doing the bare minimum. A project partner agrees to make a change in the meeting but afterward keeps doing things the same old way. Yep. This gets us upset.

When we get upset, we focus only on the circumstances. We don’t see there might be something behind the resistance – a cause to poor performance that needs to be uprooted and addressed.

There are three basic causes of poor work performance:

  • The employee thinks they are already doing the task
  • The employee does not want to do the task
  • The employee can’t do the task

Before reacting to the behavior that impacts results – lets dig into the root cause. I know it’s not easy. The impact of poor work performance is tangible and relevant. The causes of poor work performance are hidden and confusing.

The secret is addressing performance concerns is to do it right away! The first time you experience any frustration. Step back. Don’t react. Set some time to reflect on whatever problem just bubbled to the surface. Here are a few questions to get you started . . .

  1. What is the gap between what was done and what was supposed to be done?
  2. What is it that makes me say things aren’t right?
  3. Why am I dissatisfied?
  4. What part did I play or could I have played to make an impact in the situation?
  5. What do I want to be different?

If your reflection has gotten you more frustrated – then you might have fallen into the trap of ruminating instead of reflecting. Go back and revisit questions four and five.

There is always a “dance” that happens when people work together that can either fuel motivation or diffuse it. Differences in personality, expectations, or approaches to solving the problem. As leaders, we GET to work through these differences. We grow as leaders when we develop our people to be all that God designed them to be. Sometimes it means engaging the tough conversations. Other times it means extending grace. Step back to reflect on the best dance moves for the music that is playing.

If you change your dance step, it requires your partner follow. Once you think through your approach, you can shift how you do things which requires others to shift how they respond.

For example, if they miss a deadline and you scramble to pick up the pieces to get it done, you have created a dance move that can be repeated. What if next time you take the time to step back and think through your best response. Instead of coming to the rescue you engage a conversation to keep the solution to the problem in their court. You just changed the dance move to something more productive that helps you both grow.

Granted some deadlines require rescuing – but keep track how often you do this. If you are doing it too much or feeling frustrated because you always must be the hero, then you need to rethink your dance moves.

For more strategies to navigate people dynamics at work, download my Ultimate Leader Guide: Six Strategies to Fix People Problems or Stop Them Before They Start.

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center of Coaching Excellence.

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