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Why you fail to perform at work

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Effective Discipline
This article is based on the free eBook "Effective Discipline"

Be honest: Are you sometimes bored or even frustrated at work? These are just two common reasons for “non-conformance”. The expression “non-conformance” covers all the reasons why people fail to conform at work. There is no one simple reason for non-conformance and hence no way of predicting who will misbehave, when, and why. However, there are some common categories of non-conformance in which you might be interested. Let’s take a look!


According to psychologist Gerald Mar the reasons why people break rules at work, even though they know the rules and could obey them if they wanted, can be complex. They include:

a. to express their individuality in the face of an impersonal organisation

b. to express their anger and frustration

c. for the sheer hell of it

d. to show off to others

e. to see if they can get away with it.


Boredom arises when we no longer find work challenging or interesting. It often strikes when people find their jobs too easy, meaningless, repetitive, when they have no control over what they do, or when they do not share the goals, purpose, and vision of the team or organisation. All of these are issues of motivation that good people management should nip in the bud.


Timothy Costello and Sheldon Zalkind, two American researchers, have found evidence of significant frustration at work, largely because of our past attempts to de-humanise the workplace and put systems first and people second. At one end of the spectrum, frustration can result in violence and at the other end, just giving up.


While some people express their anti-company feelings at the workplace, others express them by not turning up for work at all. Non-genuine absence is an issue in many organisations that fail to manage employee dis-interest. In surveys, nearly half the people who are absent without authorised reasons are due to poor motivation; a third of the no-shows are said to be due to “family issues”; and the next highest category are due to stress.

Personality Clashes

Research shows that the most important factor in determining whether someone is happy at work is the quality of their relationships with those they work beside, in particular with their boss. When relationships are good, things run well; when they are poor and nothing is done about them, employees fail to conform, possibly by going absent, showing bad attitudes, and in acts of misconduct.


Workplaces can offer easy opportunities for people to be dishonest. Unlike public places, the workplace is less scrutinised by authorities. The types of non-conformance at work are as varied as the opportunities presented and the inventiveness of people to take advantage. That’s why, as a manager or team leader, you need to have adequate supervision in place when things go wrong and adequate systems in place to do something about it.

What to keep in mind

  • While some form of control of people’s behaviour and performance is necessary at work, it needs to be fair and non-intrusive.
  • Excessive or discriminatory controls on people are likely to lead to accusations of discrimination or harassment.
  • Minor lapses of discipline are not necessarily evidence of more serious cases of indiscipline.
  • People break rules for a range of reasons ranging from personal gain to boredom.

Are you interested in learning more about this topic? Then the free eBook “Effective Discipline” written by ManageTrainLearn is the right book for you.

Download “Effective Discipline” right here