Can’t Rely On Employees? Try Developing Their Leadership Skills!


In a culture infused with leadership every employee can be relied upon to do whatever it takes to get their job done right while honoring the values and principles of the organization. If employees are not reliable there may be several issues to deal with.

First, the employee may not know what is expected. If leadership and management within the organization has not been open and transparent with an employee about what they expect him to do, this could make it seem the employee is not reliable. It is important for managers to share the mission, vision, and values of the company with the employees, so employees know where the organization as a whole is headed. Employees also need to know what is their part in achieving the company vision. Ensure your employees know how their day to day work and special projects fit into the larger mission the company is trying to accomplish. Finally, share your expectations as a manager or leader with the employee.  Tell him or her what you expect to be done, and the way employees should conduct themselves while on the job (supporting the values of the organization).

Second, the employee may know what is expected yet is not motivated to work hard to live up to the expectations. In this situation it is vitally important that as a supervisor or manager you get to know each individual employee who works for you. Learn what it is your employee cares about. What drives her or him? What does he or she choose to spend time on? What is the reason they come to work at all? When you discover what is most important to each employee you can help the employee link what is important to them with the work expected by the company. In this way each employee becomes motivated internally by the things that they value.  For example, if the only reason an employee comes to work is because she cares about her children and wants to make sure she is able to support them financially, then help her to understand how the success of the company in achieving its mission is directly tied to the ability of the company to keep employing and paying the employees – including her.  If the employee is driven by wanting to make a difference in others’ lives, help him see the link between his work and the benefits the organization is able to provide to its customers and the community. Each employee may be motivated by something different, so a leadership infused organization taps into these and helps the employees discover their optimal motivation.

Third, the employee may know what is expected, may be motivated to do a good job, but may lack the skills or training necessary to excel. The answer here is to invest in training and developing the employee. The key here is to recognize whether the employee is not reliable because of a lack of skill or capability. Fourth, the employee is distracted by outside issues. There are times in life when outside issues affect reliability. The car breaks down, we are battling an illness, we have a family or personal problem to deal with. For these types of issues, supporting a good employee through bad times with compassion, benefits, and perhaps an employee assistance program will help the employee get through the problem so they can return their focus to work as quickly as possible.

Finally, sometimes the employee is simply not a good fit for this company at this point in time. It does not mean that the employee was never a good employee in the past and it does not mean that the employee might not do a great job for a different organization, but the fit is not there now. Sometimes the employee could be a good fit in a different location, department, or position within the company. If the employee clearly knows the expectations, has the skill and capabilities, can be motivated yet is still not contributing, does not have any personal or external issues to deal with, then there is most likely a cultural disconnect. In this situation the best thing for both the employee and the organization is to either find a good fit elsewhere in the company if it exists or to part ways. It may be painful, yet terminating the employee or requesting their resignation can be the best option in order to allow the employee to find some place where they can contribute more fully and more reliably.