It's often an unhappy reality, but true: Once a boss decides a worker cannot succeed, then it becomes very difficult -- if not downright impossible -- to break that opinion. The manager often makes it more difficult for the employee’s suggestions to see the light of day, or argues with every idea the employee makes so that it is less likely others will pick up on the idea.
It finally can become so bad that the employee becomes transparent -- and the job becomes so difficult that the worker must leave in order to achieve anything.
The fallout is not only damaging to individual careers, but in a work dynamic calling on team efforts, group innovations and shared information, such actions can damage other workers and ultimately, the company.
Many bosses won't deny that they behave this way. They say they are just more controlling with what they perceive as "low" performers. In other words, they do what they want and get what they expect.
As a result, even though an employee may be capable of great things, once targeted as a low performer they may begin to act that way. The person begins to doubt his or her own judgement, withdrawing and offering fewer ideas for consideration. Still others may swing the other way and begin taking on huge workloads in order to prove their worth -- but quality suffers, and that only emphasizes the negative label.
But because it's so difficult for an employee to combat such actions, companies must learn to target such behavior by bosses who drive away workers simply because they have put their own prejudices into play. Some ways to do that include:
* Addressing the relationship. A meeting between the employee and the boss should not be a chance to give “feedback” to the employee (that often bodes ill for the worker), but rather a chance to address the relationship in an open and honest way. The boss can admit there is tension -- and that he may be responsible for problems in the employee’s performance. The worker should be free to discuss the manager’s behavior.
* Admitting that no one sets out to fail. Sometimes employees are not as capable in some areas as in others, so the boss and the worker need to decide the specific areas of weakness, and the manager needs to provide evidence that these flaws exist. This is a chance for the employee to compare his performance with others, pointing out strengths and capabilities.
* Owning up to assumptions. Understanding what each person's attitude is toward the other and how those tensions can be alleviated is important in moving forward.
* Moving forward. Once the dirty laundry has been aired, then the manager and employee should agree on performance objectives, and how their relationship can move forward. While new objectives may require some monitoring by the boss, an employee should be free of intense scrutiny as the performance improves.
* Continuing to talk. The employee and boss should agree to address any problems in the future right away, opening the door to more honest communication.