top of page

How Do I Get Them to Execute? - Capable or Willing

We are coming to the end of our series on increasing employee effectiveness. We have explored the first four reasons that employees may not execute your instructions to their full potential. If you missed any of these articles, you can find them on earlier posts. This now takes us to the fifth and final question: Is the employee capable and/or willing to do the work? If you have determined that (1) the employee understands the objective, that (2) there are no roadblocks (internal to the company) keeping the employee from performing, that (3) the employee is sufficiently trained, and (4) that you have given proper motivation -- incapable and/or unwilling is the only other alternative. However, this determination leaves the employer with a very difficult decision to make.

Sometimes the employee is not physically capable of doing the work. Perhaps the job requires that the employee stack 35 lb boxes onto pallets or swing a framing hammer for seven or more hours each day. Not everyone is physically capable of performing strenuous manual labor for extended intervals. Physical capability also pertains to the ability to concentrate and stay focused for long periods. Air traffic controllers, security guards and those that enter or review data, write computer code and many other jobs carry this requirement.

Other than the employee is not mentally capable of doing the work. Certain jobs have an intellectual component that not everyone can reach. Not everyone is blessed with the same level of quantitative and analytical horsepower that actuaries, analysts, researchers and other positions require. If you find that you hire employees who subsequently are not capable of doing the job (either mentally or physically), you should review your hiring procedure and assessment tools.

In other cases the employee is capable of doing the work, but for whatever reason, is not willing to do the work. This can be the most frustrating situation for managers. You know the person can do the work. The employee promises to perform better; and yet, they continuously come up short. If you can answer, "Yes" to the four enumerated points above, and you strongly believe that the employee is physically and mentally capable of doing the work, you must conclude that he/she is not willing to do the work.

At this point you have two choices, (1) transfer the employee to a job in which they can be successful or, (2) terminate the employee. This is a tough choice and one which I have seen made badly time and again. Most managers want to do right by their employees and don't want to see people lose their jobs. This desire to be the "good guy" often comes back to bite the manager later. I learned early in my career, "no good deed goes unpunished." If the issue is "not willing," changing the position, in my experience, will not make a difference. The choice is clear. However, if the employee has given exceptional effort, but still is not capable of doing the job they were hired for, you may look within your organization to find a more suitable position for them. Use this option with caution.

Be sure that the employee's only issue is physical or mental capability and that the job you are moving them to will be in line with their skill set. If not, you are setting yourself and your organization up for a long period of frustration. It is better to help the employee to find employment outside your organization in which they can be successful rather than prolong the mutual suffering. Managers greatly influence the success of their employees. They can ensure employees have clear instructions, are free of roadblocks, are trained and motivated to succeed. However, if you find yourself with an employee who is either incapable or unwilling to do the work, there is little you can do to "fix" the situation. First, make sure you have done your part, and then be willing to make the tough decision. You, your organization and the employee will be better for it.

bottom of page