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Case Study

  • Submitted by: sc1381246
  • on September 3, 2013
  • Category: English
  • Length: 9,693 words

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How bosses create their own poor performers.

The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome
by Jean-François Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux

Included with this full-text Harvard Business Review article: 1 Article Summary The Idea in Brief—the core idea The Idea in Practice—putting the idea to work 2 The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome 15 Further Reading A list of related materials, with annotations to guide further exploration of the article’s ideas and applications

This document is authorized for use only by XIAODONG WU in Organizations and Leadership taught by Elizabeth Mullen from August 2013 to October 2013.

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The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome

The Idea in Brief
That darned employee! His performance keeps deteriorating—despite your close monitoring. What’s going on? Brace yourself: You may be at fault, by unknowingly triggering the set-up-to-fail syndrome. Employees whom you (perhaps falsely) view as weak performers live down to your expectations. Here’s how: 1. You start with a positive relationship. 2. Something—a missed deadline, a lost client—makes you question the employee’s performance. You begin micromanaging him. 3. Suspecting your reduced confidence, the employee starts doubting himself. He stops giving his best, responds mechanically to your controls, and avoids decisions. 4. You view his new behavior as additional proof of mediocrity—and tighten the screws further. Why not just fire him? Because you’re likely to repeat the pattern with others. Better to reverse the dynamic instead. Unwinding the set-up-to-fail spiral actually pays big dividends: Your company gets the best from your employees—and from you.

The Idea in Practice
HOW SET-UP-TO-FAIL STARTS A manager categorizes employees as “in” or “out,” based on: • early perceptions of employees’ motivation, initiative, creativity, strategic perspectives; • previous bosses’ impressions; • an early mishap; and •...

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