Sixteen Reasons Employees Don’t Do What They Are Supposed To

May 16, 2022
Why Employees Don't Do What They Should


It's frustrating, isn't it?  You define tasks that you need your team to do, provide them with the resources they need, and send them on their way to get it done.  You wait.  You notice it's not getting done.  You wait some more.  It still isn't getting done.  You call in your team members and inquire about the task.  You get an ambiguous answer.  You send the employees back out to perform the task.  You wait even more.  It still doesn't get done.  What's going on here?


According to Ferdinand Fournies, author of Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed To Do and What To Do About It, there are 16 specific reasons why.

16 Reasons Employees Don't Do What They Are Supposed To

  1. They don't know why they should do it.
  2. They don't know how to do it.
  3. They don't know what they are supposed to do.
  4. They think your way will not work.
  5. They think their way is better.
  6. They think something else is more important.
  7. There are no positive consequences for doing the task.
  8. They think they are doing it when they, in actuality, are not.
  9. They are rewarded for not doing it.
  10. They are punished for doing what they are supposed to do.
  11. They expect a negative consequence for doing it.
  12. Their poor performance does not receive a negative consequence.
  13. There are obstacles beyond their control.
  14. Their personal limits prevent them from completing the task.
  15. Personal Issues.
  16. The task cannot be done.


Each of the reasons listed above is easily neutralized, but it requires the manager to consider each reason when the task is delegated.  The next time you delegate a task to a team member, go through a checklist that addresses the items:

  1. Have I told my employee why the task must be done?
  2. Does the employee have the requisite skills to perform the task?  If not, how can I train the employee?  Is there someone else who is better qualified to perform the task?
  3. Have I made my expectations clear about outcomes?  Have I explained the task clearly enough that the employee will know when they are doing the task well?  Do they have enough information to self-monitor?
  4. Have I explained why my procedure is the best way?  Is my way really the best?  Have I allowed the employee to discuss the procedure to be followed with me?  Have they had input?
  5. Have I explained how this project fits in with the company's priorities?  Have I clarified this project's importance?
  6. Have I provided an incentive for good performance?  Does the employee know that I'm monitoring their performance?  Is there a negative consequence for not performing?  Through my actions or behavior, am I unconsciously rewarding the employee for not performing?
  7. Does the employee perceive a negative consequence resulting if the task is done well?
  8. Are they ill-equipped to navigate around obstacles that may arise?  Are there things that I need to provide the employee to equip them to deal with potential obstacles?
  9. Is the task or project even possible?  Are there issues that are present that preclude the completion of the task?

 Get Your Employees To Do What You Want Them To Do

Yeah, that's a lot to think about.  But thinking about these things now prevents the manager from having to make corrections later.

It’s a tough lesson but one that you have to accept. If you are frustrated by your team not doing what they are supposed to do it is most likely due to something, you are or are not doing.

In other words, it’s probably your fault.


Achieving great results requires more than great ideas, goals, and strategies. It requires creating precise action, communication and managing them to achieve the desired results.

Managers can prevent or remedy many performance problems by ensuring that two-way conversations occur between managers and employees, resulting in a complete understanding of what is required when it is required and how everyone's contribution measures up.

Everyone benefits when:

  • The manager gains insights into the people's motivations working for them through the crucial
  • The organization retains motivated employees who understand their role and the roles of others in contributing to the organization's overall goals.

Regular Feedback is Key

Start Giving Performance Feedback Like A Pro Using These Tools

The ability to give feedback is a superpower. Little nuggets of feedback can change lives. But the word "feedback" has a negative connotation, perhaps because not many people are comfortable giving it.

One mistake many managers make when giving feedback is focusing only on poor performance instead of speaking to successful performance.

Checklist for Getting Things Done

  • Do you encourage participation and endow others below you with the rights of decision-making?
  • How do you reinforce employees who do a good job?
  • How do you promote two-way, not one-way, communication?
  • What is your strategy for getting buy-in, commitment, and ownership?
  • How do you generate agreement, especially among those for who you have low expectations?
  • Are you consistent in the way you treat your employees? If not, why not?
  • How do you encourage interaction among team members?
  • What is your game plan for handling employees who have low expectations of themselves?
  • What do you do to encourage calculated risk-taking?
  • How do you make people feel special?
  • What do you do to encourage those who are failing?
  • How do you celebrate success?

Listen to Our Podcast On Why Employees Don't Do What Your Want Them To


About the Author

Vaughn is the co-founder of Results-Driven Leadership. He is a leadership development expert, podcaster, and author. His methods are brought from his real-world experience working on the front lines and living the role of being a high-impact leader and manager. There was no theory, just common-sense advice, and direction. He is a former executive with CarMax the world's largest and most respected company in the auto industry and is a Fortune 100 Best Places to Work.

Vaughn's mission is to improve the impact of executives and other managers by increasing their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

His motto is "No matter what business you're in, you're in the people business."

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