We must realize that while no employee sets out to be a bad employee, every company has its
share of employees failing at the job. In the hiring process only the top candidates are selected
for your organizations; yet, it is from these ‘top candidates’ that employee failure results.
What is going on?
We must start this analysis by understanding three basic points:
Humans are very delicate creatures
Humans behaviours follow a pattern and messing up that pattern can lead to great difficulties
Let’s examine each:
Despite our bravura, our knowledge and our experience, each of us is very delicate. It doesn’t take much
for us to form our own self-doubts. We are quick to defend what little self-esteem we have left, if we feel
unduly threatened. Great leaders such as Churchill, Lenin and Montgomery showed their moments of
deep self-deprecation and doubt. We are all subject to self-doubt and the need to rebuild our temporary
loss of self-esteem.
Humans Follow a Predictable Behaviour Pattern
As we have stated again and again, we humans are blessed (or cursed) with a temperamental behaviour
pattern (which we describe as some combination of P, A, V and F) – a pattern that is predictable. More
importantly, what we can expect is that if we are in an environment where our temperament is put to
good use, we become happy, whereas if we are in a poor environment for us, we become miserable.
The temperamental misfit at work can be just as severe as asking a soprano to sing a bass note. In the
work environment it is expecting the V to like paying attention to detailed forms (which they abhor) or
asking the A to swallow a surprise change in circumstances in their stride (which frightens them no end).
This famous phrase describes how we humans subscribe to the lift in our ego of a new position or
responsibility and, as a result, often cannot resist riding high with this boost to our self-esteem. That is,
we take it to extremes by lording this new-found power over other individuals. Whether this be a lowerlevel employee given a new responsibility or perhaps an officer given powers over the public (customs
officer, airport security, or police), the power trip is sometimes difficult to resist.
These three points are constants. You are tempted or affected by all three personally, and so is everyone
else. Ergo, everyone in your company is affected in one way or another by the three human frailties.
Managing for Results
Good management is about understanding what is at play and therefore, how you can take steps to
(a) your own behavior works successfully around these three points and
(b) your treatment of the people who report to you takes all three frailties into serious account.
Here is how we suggest you proceed.
The amygdala that fires at a rate up to 100 times faster than our logic processor is in place to protect us
(and all mammals) from threats. And it works very well; we humans have danced around threats of war
and pestilence for eons to the point where we are 7 billion strong and growing. The amygdala fires at the
tiniest threat. Two key triggers in the everyday work environment that will shoot off the defensive
amygdala is the use of the word ‘you’ or any action that ‘blames’ the employee. When an employee is
under threat two things happen, neither of which is good for the work situation:
(a) they dig in to defend themselves, and
(b) they reduce their cooperation.
We say that ‘blaming’ will always lead you away from a solution. Secondly we say that increased
cooperation leads to success; reduced cooperation leads to failure. Which road will you choose to take?
As a leader, the way to avoid ‘you’ is to, instead, use ‘we’ when confronting a difficulty with an employee
because it really is ‘we’ who have the problem and ‘we’ who must solve it. “Obviously if something is not
working out, I as your supervisor failed to instruct you properly, or make clear my expectations” or the
supervisor did not assess the employee’s capabilities for this situation correctly. Therefore ‘we’ need to
work on it. “And by the way, employee, what do you suggest we do?” (At this point the supervisor can
get away with the use of ‘you’ because the word ‘you’ is being applied positively). Using ‘we’
conveniently skirts around the ‘blame’ issue every time.
Humans Follow a Predictable Behaviour Pattern
As a leader you must assess the PAVF behavior pattern for every employee who reports to you. Then
slowly and deliberately steer the individual towards work within their own PAVF domains. That is, give
more P work to a P, more A work to an A, etc. Naturally you cannot have a perfect fit, but you can make
drastic improvements in workers’ lives and in your own as they start to excel in areas of natural habits for
them. One of the biggest misfits that I encounter is companies choosing to put F personalities in a sales
role. They are put there because F’s are so ‘nice’. Sales roles demand a PV personality; the F person,
despite all efforts, may be doomed to fail at sales. Secondly, you must have tolerance for those who are
not like you. Let the P be a P, let the V be a V, and so on. While it may amaze you that they cannot do the
things that you can do (because you have your own unique PAVF), do realize that:
(a) you need all of PAVF in play,
(b) you cannot expect people’s PAVF to change.
The answer to excessive power temptation lies in being humble yourself. Accept your new post or your
new responsibility with thanks – thanks that your personality and capability is such that your superior
values it enough to pass on increased responsibilities to you. Remember that, as stated above, everyone
under you is a delicate creature and has a built-in behaviour pattern that you must work with and turn to
your advantage. Remember that just as you cannot push a rope, you cannot push employees. You have
to pull them, that is, to lead them through thoughtful interaction and engage in the necessary nurturing
to bring them to full maturity as a successful employee.
Herein lies the full remedy for every employee.