It’s 2021 And We Still Set Our Employees Up for Failure

Written by Brian Montes

On March 25, 2021
Stressed Employee

It’s 2021 And We Still Set Our Employees Up for Failure


It is not uncommon for organizations to set unrealistic goals for their employees with little to no resources to achieve business targets. And when the employee fails to deliver on targets, managers typically blame the employee for not meeting the objectives instead of looking inward to check if internal processes provided enough resources for employees to meet the expectations. This is a big management problem that often results in what Mansoni and Barsoux called The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome.
The outcome of this is that affected employees continue to underperform and they’re perceived to be mediocre. So they’re perceived to be weak performers just because they’re performing below the expectations of their managers. This triggers major performance issues that become a self-fulfilling prophecy where affected employees continue to underperform due to extensive supervision from managers, lack of trust, disconnection, and eventual frustration which multiplies down, on and on, and

unintentionally to hurt employees performance and their motivation. Apart from the Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome, there are other ways managers may be setting up their employees for failure. Here’s how;


Restricting their ability to collaborate

Collaboration involves working together with a shared goal. Improved team collaboration ensures that projects are delivered faster through a continuous delivery pipeline network and feedback loop that facilitates good communication. Additionally, improved team collaboration also ensures greater quality assurance because your employees are empowered to see the full scope of the projects they’re assigned to. However, despite these benefits of employee collaboration, lots of organizations are still hampering the free flow of information and hence collaboration among their employees. You may be hampering collaboration among your employees if your employees have to go through too many requests to get the job done. Additionally, ‘siloed’ teams, lack of automation, and limited visibility are factors that restrict employee collaboration. When you do this, you’re setting up your employees for failure.

Expecting too much from your employees

Some projects will fail if you do not provide enough resources for your employees to achieve stated goals. By resources, we do not only mean financial resources but also peer-level support, feedback, and communication support. Also, if your team is spending more time in the stress zone than they’re spending in the productive zone then you’re setting them up for failure. It usually starts by making everything a priority, which means that nothing is a priority. Ultimately your employees’ stress level continues to increase and ultimately they get burned out.

Unclear Goals

This is one of the commonest ways organizations set up their employees for failure. Clear goals help your employees perform efficiently and effectively. The goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). There are many other ways to implement and measure goals, so the SMART methodology is only one of several.


No matter what methodology you choose, your goals must be capable of being broken down into actionable steps which must be communicated to all employees. Unclear goals result in your employees never completing their work, missing deadlines, and could even result in employee burn-outs from doing repetitive, unproductive, and directionless tasks. The outcome of an unclear goal is a failure.


Proper goal-setting and an environment conducive to growth are some of the most important ways of setting your business up for success. Breakdown your company’s goals into actionable objectives and ensure that these goals are appropriately communicated to your employees. Also, build a strong organizational support system by ensuring an appropriate work/life balance. Businesses should also invest in continuous development programs for their employees and they should be provided with the necessary tools and resources to fulfill their roles.


Keep a pulse on progress by implementing regular conversations with the team member to gain feedback and insight on the current set of objectives. It’s your job as a leader to ask questions and be proactive in looking for areas where your team might hit the proverbial speedbumps.




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