The Reasons Why Talented Employees do not Attain Their Full Potential

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A Kahnesky
Manager, Denmark

The Reasons Why Talented Employees do not Attain Their Full Potential

🔥NEW Suppose you applied to an opening in an organization. After the recruitment process, the company found you to be a good fit for the role. You indeed got the role and joined the company. Now 6 months into the company (also called the "Honeymoon period") you feel as if you have been doing just finebut not great or excellent. As if you know your actual potential is much higher, but you seem to be hovering somewhere mid-way. Like you are still stuck in the 3rd gear, with no clue on how to make it to the 5th.
This 5th or top gear is your actual Potential the best that you can deliver. But your current stage (i.e., the 3rd gear) is your actual Performance what you are currently delivering. What are the reasons that even talented employees fail in bridging this gap?

Potential vs Performance. Introduction

There's often a difference between what an employee can achieve when motivated to the fullest (Potential), and what an employee actually achieves (Performance). Theoretically, each employee would be working at the maximum potential. But in reality, the on-the-job Performance is often lower than the true Potential. According to Chamorro-Premuzic, the actual performance is an outcome of an individual's personality (behaviour, attitude, cognitive skills), the environment, and the interaction between the two.

Based on this, we can identify four common reasons why employees fail to attain their true potential:

  1. Bad Fit: Job-Person fit signifies the level of alignment between the Job characteristics and the employee's Personality. It explains why some individuals thrive well in certain roles or cultures than others. A poor fit can be traced back to the Recruitment process - the recruiters could have over-glorified the role or organizational culture. Hence it is important that candidates carefully understand and assess the job description as well as the organizational culture.
  2. Workplace Politics: Organizational politics breeds toxicity in the culture, and widens the gap between one's talent and performance, and one's corporate success. While many organizations have been striving to promote fairness and meritocracy, a certain level of politics can always be found. Keeping this in mind, the employees who learn to steer around the organization (without possibly getting themselves 'dirty') would find it easier to climb the corporate ladder (along with one's merits). But if the situation becomes too stressful to navigate around, the best solution would be to move on to a different team, department or organization.
  3. Disengagement: This refers to the phase where employees no longer feel a connection with their work or organization when they are no longer motivated to put in extra efforts to succeed (doing the bare minimum to get the work done). It can be considered as a result of poor Job-Person fit and is one of the underlying reasons for lack of motivation among employees. The relationship between employees and managers is a critical factor for employee engagement. Hence, poor leadership, lack of trust in managers, poor communication with leaders, lack of transparency, poor reward & recognition structures, lack of purpose/direction at work, etc. turn out to be the key contributors to Disengagement.
  4. Personal Situations: An employee might be spending 40-50 hours weekly in the office, but the remaining time is devoted to oneself, family and friends. While it's important to dedicate oneself to work (during office hours), it is equally important to live one's personal life well. Hence the rising focus on professional-personal life balance. Incidences in one's personal life also tend to impact us during office hours. Good managers play a key role in helping an employee maintain a healthy work-life balance. This in turn helps an employee in being more productive at work as well.
Identifying these situations (early) can help both employees and managers in maintaining and improving employee satisfaction levels and productivity. This stresses the importance of periodic self-evaluation (for employees) and team evaluations (for managers), and of a strong employee-manager relationship.

⇒ Have you seen or experienced any of the above situations in your workplace? Or are you aware of other reasons why sometimes even diamonds don't shine?
Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2019) "4 Reasons Talented Employees Don't Reach Their Potential", Harvard Business Review
Martic, K. (2019) "10 Reasons Why Your Employees are Disengaged at Work", Semos Cloud

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