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The Six Usual Failures in Performance Counseling and How to Overcome Them

In 2013, I was conducting research into performance and found a report from the U.S. Officer of Personnel Management (OPM) that was very exciting and frightening at the same time. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management conducted an Employee Viewpoint Survey of 1.6 million federal employees and published its findings in a report (2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results, 2012).

One of the questions in the report asked employees, “In my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve.” The employees could answer “agree,” “disagree” or “neutral.” For 2012, the report said 29% of employees agree that steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve. However, 43% disagreed, and the other 28% were neutral.

The reason this was exciting was because I had been working with performance counseling for a few years and wanted to find some statistics on it. The reason it was frightening was because it involved 1.6 million federal employees, which meant: Out of 1.6 Million employees, only 464,000 felt the supervisor/manager was doing their job in dealing with poor performers. And even scarier, was the fact that out of the same 1.6 million employees, 688,000 employees felt the that supervisor/manager was not doing their job. What does this say about motivation, satisfaction and job performance in the federal government? And the 448,000 who stayed neutral, what was their reason for staying neutral? Well, that would be a whole different study to conduct, but I suspect there may be a little fear of retribution involved…would be interesting to find out.

Fast forward to 2017, after investing four years, a ton of research time, writing papers, and oh yeah, money for a doctoral program, what I’ve found is that most supervisors do a poor job dealing with poor performers, just like the OPM report showed in the federal government. Additionally, I’ve followed the OPM Employee Viewpoint Survey annually, and found that every year since 2012 has yielded almost the exact same results. The below graph indicates the results of the reports for 2013 through 2017.

The report also said, “Most supervisors haven’t been trained in how to handle a performance-centered counseling and usually fail to hit the significant issues.” What we have found at CMF Leadership Consulting is that there are “usual failures” of supervisors. These usual failures are very common and the more we’ve talked to employers, the more “usual” we find these same failures.

The six “usual failures” are:

  1. Fail to focus on modifying behavior.

  2. Fail to focus on creating a supportive climate for the counseling.

  3. Fail to focus on clear behavior expectations to achieve organizational goals.

  4. Fail to use an organized method to complete the performance counseling.

  5. Fail to focus on creating an effective behavior redirection action plan with input and effort from the follower as well as the leader.

  6. Fail to make the counseling about the behavior and not the person.

This became a focus of my doctoral research and what emerged was the S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling Method© to combat these usual failures. In the new book,

S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior (available at and, you can read why these usual failures happen and how to overcome them using the S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling Method©.

Supervisors and managers are put in their jobs to get the goals of the organization accomplished, and part of this supervisor/manager role responsibility is dealing with poor performers who cannot or will not improve. Now there is a way to make it happen. Whether you are a small private or non-profit organization, or a large government organization, S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling Method© works, because it is uses psychology, social and behavioral science concepts, along with communication techniques to create a non-confrontational way for supervisors and managers to deal with a poor performer who consciously or subconsciously is deficient or defiant.

Through my company, CMF Leadership Consulting I also offer a one-day (8-hour), S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling course which gives supervisors the knowledge skills and training to overcome these usual failures. In addition to the skills acquired, I give participants a customizable, fillable-form, MS.Docx template for documenting the performance counseling.

To find out more about the training go to, or Give me a call and let’s get started “Saving the relationships, changing the behaviors, and overcoming the usual failures.”

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