19 Reasons for Chronic Underperformance

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC
By the mid-40’s certain aspects of a person’s personality become very apparent. One of these things is work productivity. While there can be socioeconomic reasons for underperformance, after twenty years, a person is able to rise above even the most difficult of times. There is a warning however, being productive and being successful are not the same, so this not about accomplishment.
Nor is this about a teenager or someone in their twenties. For them, underperformance may simply be lack of motivation or inspiration. But by a mid-age, some things should have been resolved. Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development identifies Generativity vs. Stagnation during this period which can result in a mid-life crisis. So this is intentionally about a person who is still underperforming or in the stagnation stage by mid-age. Here are some of the possible reasons:
1.       Entitlement. Many wrongly believe that just because they are a certain age that this demands a higher level, salary, or position professionally. The attitude of “I deserve more,” can actually deplete motivation.
2.      Arrogance. Repeated arrogance in the work environment especially with the wrong person, like a superior, does not result in promotions. This might actually cause a boss to believe that the person needs a dose of humility by not being promoted.
3.      Addiction. Sometimes the addiction is apparent and sometimes it is hidden. But addicts routinely underperform below their level of ability. This provides justification to abuse their drug of choice.
4.      Victimization. “The world is out to get me” is a fruitless mentality. To others listening to the axiom, this sounds like the person wants to play the role of victim or better yet martyr. This alienates a person from anyone who might be in a position to help.
5.      Fantasy. They see themselves as a hidden hero just waiting for the right opportunity to shine. This manifests in routinely holding themselves back for some hidden mission, just in case they need their superpower strength.
6.      Passive-aggressive. They never really achieved their ideal job and therefore passive-aggressively underperform. It is a type of demonstration to the world that if they had gotten to where they wanted, things would be different. In reality, they are only harming themselves.
7.      Prideful. Allows pride to get in the way by saying that certain jobs are beneath them and therefore will not do them at all. This is similar to the old saying, “Shooting yourself in the foot.”
8.      Antagonistic. Sometimes it is as simple as not playing (working) nicely with co-workers. Being critical or nagging of co-workers does not create a positive work environment. No one likes to work with a sour person.
9.      Belligerence. They are routinely combative or argumentative at work which creates a hostile work environment. May not even be aware they are putting off such negative energy, even when it is addressed, they blame others.
10.   Denial. Refuses to accept responsibility for the things they have done wrong. They blame others for their poor behavior and overlook ways they could have contributed to a problem.
11.    Worrier. Obsesses with details to the point they drive others crazy about things that are irrelevant. Nit-picks things, people, and arguments apart to the point of exhausting everyone around.
12.   Myopic. Refuses to see the big picture and instead focuses on things solely from their viewpoint. They do not see things from other’s point of view which includes superiors, co-workers, suppliers, and customers
13.   Superior. They believe they have more authority, power, or influence then they do. This frequently results in overstepping boundaries and misjudging the social environment in the workplace.
14.   Stagnant. They refuse to grow or continue to grow professionally or personally. Instead, they stay still and expect others to change around them. There is no additional advanced degree, continuing education, or job specific training.
15.   Negativity. No one likes a constant critic at work or someone who is routinely negative. The problem is that faked positivity is almost as bad as negativity. It takes effort but even in the most difficult of work environment, there is something that can be seen as positive.
16.   Disloyal. Demands loyalty from others but does not reciprocate. This is particularity damaging when the people are subordinates or co-workers. Loyalty should not be reserved just for superiors.
17.   Ungratefulness. Is not thankful for the things they have, instead they constantly want or demand more. This can be tiring for superiors who might have their own limitations to navigate.
18.   Depression. Long-term undiagnosed or treated depression can manifest in underperformance. Getting treatment can improve the attitude, boost energy levels, and stabilize the down turns.
19.   Perfectionism. Some professions demand perfectionism (surgeons, pilots, and engineers), others do not (sales, management, and diplomacy). A perfectionist in an environment that does not value it will become frustrated and inefficient.

If this sounds familiar, try working on one of these items at a time. Doing too many at once may cause even more shut down. This can be improved, it’s not too late.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.


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