What is More Debilitating – A Talented Person Who is Unsupported Or an Untalented Person Who is Enabled?

by  Jason Monaghan  |  Workplace Issues

Two employees, two different situations.

Imagine yourself walking by the desk of someone you know who has a large skill set.  You see them hunched over their desk, frowning, and you know that they are struggling to get their project to move forward because they are lacking support.  Then, you walk by another desk and you see someone else looking at their cell phone and watch them quickly turn away so you can’t see that they are sending a text on work time.  Which is worse?

The short answer?  Neither.  They are both just a symptom of a leader who needs to make changes to how they manage their team and become more involved.  If changes aren’t made by the leadership, the talented, unsupported worker will either begin to look for a new job or burn out.  The untalented person with bad office behavior that everyone overlooks is setting a poor example for the entire office culture and may drag the entire team into a less effective mindset, stalling everyone’s career.

Both of these types of workers provides an opportunity for a leader to provide adequate support and clear expectations for workers.  Rather than simply ordering changes, the effective leader will use this as an opportunity to mentor each worker.  The talented, unsupported worker may need assistance in figuring out not only how to run the project that they have been assigned, but access to resources and the helpful experience of a leader who has gone through the situation before them.

When providing support, the most effective help for this person may be their team leader, but it also may be wise to find a mentor for them – someone who has been in the organization for a significant amount of time and who is several levels of responsibility above them.

The same general process will work for the untalented, enabled employee.  The first thing to do is to ask a series of “why”questions.  Why are they not working up to their ability?  Why are they not using their time wisely?  Why are they not engaging effectively?   Again, the direct team leader may not be the best person to coach this employee.  Building a relationship with someone outside their own department may allow them to become honest about their lack of job performance and what their true career goals are for the short and long-term.

For both the talented and untalented employees, devising concrete goals that will not only prevent burnout, but that will provide clear milestones will go a long way to assisting each of these workers to become their best.

Photo (© auremar – Fotolia.com)

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What People Are Saying

Alex Dail  |  01 Jun 2012  |  Reply

How do you get to be a talented and enabled worker, manager, and even leader (in the latter case providing the board of directors does not support you)? in other words, what kind of personal power can an individual use who finds him/herself in this situation?

Mike Henry  |  03 Jun 2012  |  Reply

Jason, another thought on these lines is that the talented worker will get stronger. They’ll figure out how to be better or go to da different place, especially if they’re truly talented. The lazy worker and the less-than-competent manager and their company institutionalizes this mediocrity. Everyone who chooses not to be mediocre, leaves. It really does all start with one manager.

As managers, we have to choose which behaviors we will reward. We’ll get whatever we allow to exist. Mike…

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