Dealing With Poor Performers LO13793

Lee Holmer (
Sat, 31 May 1997 10:01:07 -0700 (PDT)

Replying to LO13784 --


I have some observations from my management consulting experience with a
state department of education which may be enlightening here. First, as a
non-education professional, I was struck by the distinctive culture which
pervaded the organization I worked with, and which I suspect may genrally
pervade agencies concerned with educational admininstration, due to the
tendency for these organizations to be dominated by indiviudals who have
followed the typical career path into education administration. (B.A. in
education, teaching, MA in education, possibile Ed. Doc.)

I don't pretend to know enough about the culture to explain the
connection, but my intuitive sense was that there was something about this
shared background that prohibited people in managerial and supervisory
position from taking an active role in managing their employee's
performance. Perhaps it stems from the conditioning to teaching as an
individual-centered creative enterprise, but I found a pervasive
reluctance to accept responsibilty for the managerial role in the sense of
establishing standards and following up to check on, give feedback, and if
necessary administer consequences related to achievement of performance

I found that many employees were demoralized because others continued to
function for years and years with nothing being done about non-performance
of work duties, and in some cases, outright disruption of the work

I freqeuntly listened to managers complaining about employees they
supervised and giving no indication that they felt any personal
responsibilty to take action on their own complaints.

I don't mean in any way to "put down" this organization or educational
administration in general-- there was much about this organization that
was creative, dynamic, progressive and successful. Many in the
organization were aware of the "performance" problem and were seeking ways
to address it.

I am suggesting that it may be helpful to examine cultural factors which
may act as barriers to performance management, as well as looking at the
more positive side of employee motivation. My intuitive conclusion from
this project, in addition to some other work with individual school
systems, was that the field of education would do well to open up its
system to more folks, particularly administrators and consultants, who
have backgrounds other than a career in education. I guess I'm saying the
system would benefit from a greater variety of perspectives on management.

In addition to helping managers to act with more skill and confidence with
respect to performance management, some of the other things which resulted
in improvements were: involving employees in teams which had
responsibility for scheduling and managing work, and making efforts to
de-emphasize distinctions between "professional" and "support" employees.

Hope this helps.


Lee Holmer, Ph.D.
Seattle University Institute of Public Service
Broadway and Madison
Seattle, WA 98122-4340

Phone: (206) 296-5434
Fax: (206) 296-5402

On Fri, 30 May 1997, Bruce Monblatt wrote:

> The U.S. Department of Education is investigating ways that the
> Department can deal with poor performers.


Lee Holmer <>

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