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The ‘won’t-do’ employee

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According to author and speaker Ken Blanchard, when it comes to effective management, there are two types of problems: a “can’t do” problem and a “won’t do” problem. The first is the responsibility of the supervisor, while the second is for the employee to tackle. The challenge is to tell the difference, as each type requires a different approach.

Won’t-do problems often arise in tenured employees. It can be difficult to identify a won’t-do problem, because the employee may appear to be industrious. But despite appearing to be busy, she is simply not performing job functions.

There are a number of reasons for won’t-do problems:

    • The employee either never had motivation or has lost it.

    • The employee is vindictive, seeking revenge for a perceived slight (being disrespected, passed over for promotion, etc.).

    • The employee has lost interest in the company’s mission.

    • The employee is suffering from a personal problem (addiction, divorce, bereavement).

The problems facing the won’t-do employee may be difficult, but the supervisor must not attempt to take responsibility for them. The employee is the only one who can solve a won’t-do problem.

Blanchard’s original research was based on the parenting of children, and a supervisor concerned with her employees’ wellbeing is not unlike a parent. Just like a parent, a supervisor may hesitate to discipline a won’t-do employee. But refusing to mete out discipline erodes the authority of the supervisor while being detrimental to the employee.

Employee problems are always challenging. But with patience and insight, they can be resolved.

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