What Is the Most Important Pitfall To Avoid When Diagnosing a Performance Problem?

May We Recommend...

The most common pitfall, for managers, when trying to identify the cause of a performance problem (diagnosing) involves making what is called a "attribution error". That is, they attribute the cause of the problem to the employee, in its entirety, assuming that the productivity problem is caused by a deficit in the employee, and only a deficit in the employee.

Of course, this can be true and accurate, but it can also be a) completely wrong, or more likely b) only partially accurate. The reality is that many performance problems occur as a result of the system in which the person works. For example, an employee may be less productive over time if the tools s/he is given are faulty, poor or inadequate. Certainly, that not the fault of the employee, and it's not something the employee can even control.

In many situations, performance problems are jointly caused. That is, the causes lie both with the employee and the environment or system (and that includes managerial behavior). The two "causes" often interact, which is why you will find that two employees doing the same job in the same environment can be differentially productive.

Anyway, the point is not to rush to judgment and attribute a productivity problem solely to the employee. It's unfair to do so, and what's worse, you aren't likely to be able to fix the problem unless you also look at the work environment.

When diagnosing performance look at employee factors as contributors and the bigger picture.

See Also: Diagnosing Performance Problems Helpcard


About Company

Bacal & Associates was founded in 1992 by consultant and book author, Robert Bacal. Robert's books on performance management and reviews have been published by McGraw-Hill. He is available for consultation, training and keynote speaking on performance and management at work.


Robert Bacal

Bacal's Books
About The Company
About Our Performance Management Philosophy
Privacy Policy

Our Related Websites

Leadership Resource Center
Upgrade your understanding of modern leadership in a complex world. Stay current.

The Planning Resource Center

From strategic planning for businesses, small and large, right through to financial planning for millennials, stay current with the latest thoughts and actions on planning.

Bacal & Associates Store
Free and paid guides, books, and documents on business, management and more.

Small Business Resource Center

For anyone who owns, runs or would like to start their own business. Filled with advice, tips, articles.

We Believe

  • Performance management and appraisal MUST be a partnership between manager and employee where BOTH benefit.
  • Performance management can be the lever for improved employee engagement.
  • The review process is the LEAST important part of performance management
  • If managers aren't managing employee performance, why are they there?

Get in Touch

  • Phone:
    (613) 764-0241
  • Email: ceo@work911.com
  • Address:

  • Bacal & Associates
  • 722 St. Isidore Rd.
  • Casselman
  • Ontario
  • Canada, K0A 1M0