The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome – Harvard Business Review

Two questions came to mind as I read this article.

1. How do you determine how much of an employee’s failure is the responsibility of the employee and how much is due to the manager?  The article does not address that question.

2. Is this article part of the broader movement to coddle and entitle people?  That is, support blaming someone else for your actions when outcomes are bad and claiming credit for your actions when outcomes are good?

I think the answer is simple.  Both subordinate and manager are responsible.  Both would be better served communicating their concerns to each other.  Both should be responsible for doing all they can for success.  Neither should play the blame game.

This reminds me of my 11+ years of university schooling in three different states.  I had some above average, average, and below average professors.  At times I blamed the professor and did poorly in the class.  Other times I acknowledged I wasn’t learning from the professor and spent more time on the library with more books.  In those cases I did well in the class.

The third case is not something I tried in those 11 years:  suggesting, politely, how the professor could improve the learning environment while simultaneously spending more time in the library with more books. 

Why didn’t I try that?  I believe it is due to traditions, practices, and values that I have.  I was raised to do what you are told and not to question authority.  I was also taught to take responsibility for your own actions, not the actions of others.

So my recommendation to students specifically and subordinates in general?  Don’t complain, take responsibility for your own actions (grades for students other metrics for employees), and choose words that contribute to harmony if you have suggestions to improve the environment.  Actually, those suggestions apply to professors and managers as well.

Oh, and for students, I believe more time in the library with more books is a good thing no matter what.  Kind of fits the job title “student” eh?!

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