Raise the bar for the benchmark you want to set

Sometimes when I am working with clients, I come across small but powerful oversights that have been created with the best of intentions but actually tend to have detrimental subliminal effects on people and their performance. I am very conscious of universal laws and principles when making decisions, looking at ‘causing an effect’ rather than cause and effect which implies that we have no control over our actions and outcomes.

Whatever you expect to have happen generally does. Without getting too Sciency with you all, we have a massive effect on what happens with the way we think and how we act. Therefore, if we establish policies and processes which expect worst case scenarios and these policies and processes are constantly referred to and enforced, rather than being a background influence; we will lower the bar so to speak and end up with sub optimal results in behaviours and performance in our teams.

Let me explain further…. Let’s just say that a company is experiencing some higher than desired sick leave levels and they want to address this issue; what many organisations tend to do is to:

A)  Address it at a group level to make sure everyone is aware of the concerns and;

B)  Tend to hone right in on the reasons for the sick leave and what’s wrong etc.

It tends to happen this way for a few reasons. Firstly, no one wants to tackle the ‘sick leave chat’ as it’s awkward and can cause more dramas than desired results. Secondly, organisations tend to feel that by addressing things ‘to all’, they have covered their bases.

I respond in the following way….

When someone is taking excessive sick leave, there is generally a reason (assuming they are not seriously ill with a particular problem). There is no point in hitting it from the ‘why are you taking so much time off’ angle. When someone is taking a lot of time off for random days, they are generally struggling in some way so it’s best to accept that from the get go. Getting to the root cause of the issue without necessarily even discussing the sick leave problem is a desirable way to get real information which can help you to nip the entire issue in the bud.

Looking at the ‘big picture’ of how this person is going performance wise, company culture, future career path plans etc., can indirectly address issues without ‘threatening’ the person.

Group emails to address negative are perceived as lazy and really de-motivating. People perceive that they demonstrate a lack of real desire to change anything and they work on the principal of ‘tarnishing everyone with the same brush’.

If a few are causing the grief, why feel a need to discuss it with the many?

The same principle applies for feeling a need to bring up punctuality etc. in people’s appraisals. If someone has sensational attendance and looks fabulous, why on earth would there be a need to speak of something where there is no issue?


1. Be clear on general cultural expectations during the very important and so often overlooked (or boring!!!) induction process. This should absolutely set the scene of expectations and ensure that you only need to raise issues with the minority rather than a majority.

2. If there are any issues, please don’t deal with them as a group email or adopting policies, processes etc. which lower the bar, rather than having expectations that people will do the things that you need them to do to reach the level of success that your organisation is capable of.

If you are concerned about things going wrong, there’s no need to document negative information in employment contracts which ‘cover organisations’ for potential behavioural issues, outside of areas covered under Fair Work. Again, manage expectations in induction, adopting a position of promoting “Response-Ability!”

Questions? Not sure how to tackle this? We can help


Until next time


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