The great plague of the workplace

Many of the problems, currently being experienced in the workplace are the direct result of the incapacity of employees.  Incapacity is seen by many managers to be an illness or disability related issue and for this reason is often overlooked or ignored.


What is Incapacity?

It is the failure or inability of an employee to work to the standard expected in order to fulfil the requirements of the job. Incapacity includes and relates directly to poor performance for whatever reason.


The inability to perform due to ill health is a very different issue to the failure of an employee to perform at a required standard simply because they are incapable of doing so.


Incapacity related to health issues differs greatly from poor performance because there is no fault on the part of the employee. In situations where the incapacity is due to ill health or injury employers are required to assist the employee in every way reasonably possible so as to ensure continued employment.


When a situation arises related to poor performance (not illness related) the manager is required to establish the cause. This is necessary in order to establish the most appropriate action to be taken under the specific circumstances and related to the individual employee.


What needs to be considered and the questions to be asked are:


  • Is the problem due to illness, injury or disease (HIV/AIDS included)?
  • Is the problem due to lack of skills? Is there a training need?
  • Is the company at fault due to lack of equipment etc?
  • Did the employee perform at acceptable levels in the past?
  • Is the problem due to excessive pressure on the employee?
  • Does the employee know what is expected of him/her?

Whatever has to be done to improve the performance must be done but before taking any

action we have an obligation to establish the real cause of the performance problem.


On many occasions I hear managers say the problem has to do with attitude and the solution is


 “He must change his attitude” and so on. People problems come in many guises and are each individually solved with different remedies. What’s good for one is not necessarily good for another. The solution to performance problems and incapacity is the ability of the manager to diagnose and analyse the problem.


What about incapacity where management is the cause?


Incapacity, as we see exemplified today, has come about, in my opinion due to the failure of those responsible for recruiting and selection failing in their jobs. Are they too incapacitated and are guilty of poor performance?


There are far too many employees being recruited and placed in positions they are not equipped or are incapable of doing the job. This has, and is creating an enormous problem for employer’s in both Public and Private enterprise


We speak in today’s language about competency -based recruiting and selection and yet in many cases those being appointed are incompetent and/or incapable of doing the job. Is there a reason or explanation?


Incapacity, whatever the reason, will only be stamped out when managers accept that the appointment of any employee to a position where they are incapable of doing the job, will lead to incompetence, poor performance and unhappiness. Managers making such appointments are themselves incapacitated and should be dealt with accordingly. Managers must be held accountable.


Once an employee is appointed to a position, managers are responsible for the appointment and should be held accountable. Should there be performance problems, due to a lack of skills or knowledge deemed by management to exist at the time of the appointment, that arise later in the employees’ career then the problem becomes the problem of management. Management will be held responsible and will need to find ways of solving any performance problems that might arise due incapacity. Disciplinary action will initially be out of the question.


Article courtesy of: Des Squire

(Managing Member – AMSI and Associates cc)

More in this category: « Managing Disability