Inadequate Resources and Poor Performance: Should Employees Suffer the Consequences?

Failure when best not good enough

In today’s workplace, employees are told to “make it happen” – even if the organization doesn’t provide the appropriate amount or kind of resources needed to “make it happen.”

While I understand that a still uncertain economy requires companies to try to “do more with less,” this lack of resources is often ignored in many performance reviews.  Even if the employee’s pleas for additional help were unheeded, he or she alone bears the brunt and negative consequences of substandard work in the poor performance review.

The employee is, therefore, penalized for not “making it happen” because the company did not “help to make it happen.”

My question is:  should the employee be blamed when the company did not meet its responsibility to provide the necessary resources to ensure that its goals were met?

I’ve posed this conundrum to several colleagues and received some interesting insights:

  • Some managers said that they take this lack of resources into consideration to a point during the performance review – but are influenced by the negative impacts of their subordinates’ poor performance on their own performance reviews.
  • Other employees in non-management positions said that they do the best that they can with the limited resources but simply stop caring – if the company cared, then the resources would have been provided, so the resulting subpar performance is “not their fault.”
  • Still other workers (both managerial and non-managerial) simply quit – by either resigning from the company or staying on the job but doing the bare minimum to “get by.”

Performance reviews are a critical process to ensure that the company’s workers are completing the necessary tasks to achieve both short- and long-term goals.  While many companies are much better at regularly completing performance appraisals, I’ve noticed that there is often a poor alignment between what the company says is important and the corresponding commitment of resources (both financial and human) to achieve those goals.

Puleo’s Pointers:  The Importance of Providing the Necessary Resources to Do the Work  

Is poor employee performance resulting from inadequate resources not evidence of poor employee motivation, but rather an indication of poor corporate planning?  In this situation, is it really ethical if the employees are blamed when their work “doesn’t measure up” – yet the corporate planners escape with no liability for these results?

The true costs of the relevant tangible and intangible factors to performance must be determined prior to the performance review.  ALL resources have an associated cost.  If the company is not willing to provide these resources, then perhaps it should rethink the feasibility of these goals for the employee.

  1. Don’t over-estimate the projected financial payoff of “doing more with less.”  Since payroll is often one of the largest line items on a balance sheet, the rhetoric is that profits will increase when costs are cut via downsizing, rightsizing, or layoffs.  Fewer employees equal less costs.  According to a fascinating Newsweek article, the projected cost savings and resulting surges in stock prices were often significantly over-estimated by organizations that frequently downsized to cut expenses.  Survivor syndrome (i.e., the feelings of stress, anger, and betrayal in employees who were not downsized) most likely contributed to these results.
  2. Don’t under-estimate the projected intangible or human-related costs.  While financial savings are often significantly over-estimated, the projected “soft” costs are conversely under-estimated or even ignored.  Employees must do the work associated with the achievement of any goal.  High performance is not a robotic act, but incorporates that which makes us human:  emotions, values, perceptions, beliefs, and commitment.  If the necessary resources to enable employees to do their best work are not provided, then frustration, anger, and resentment emerge.  The result is a decline in employee morale, commitment, and (ultimately) performance.
  3. Always consider the context surrounding an employee’s performance.  Be sure to look beyond the outcomes and consider whether there were factors outside the employee’s control that affected his or her results.  The psychological contract between the worker and the organization necessitates duties and responsibilities for both parties.  To many employees, a company that refuses to provide the necessary resources to do the job (1) does not truly understand what is required to achieve its goals and (2) does not care about its workers.  Withholding necessary resources not only destroys an employee’s performance, but also his or her confidence and commitment to the organization.
  4. Corporate actions reveal corporate priorities.  In a previous blog post (Poor Leadership:  8 Ways Managers Burn Out Their Employees), my research revealed that refusing to provide the right amount and kind of resources is strongly correlated with employee burnout.  Burned out employees are simply incapable of meeting the challenges necessary to perform their jobs to the expected standards of excellence.  I firmly believe that burnout is closely correlated with poor performance.  When developing performance standards, it is critical, therefore, to identify and provide the necessary financial, manpower, and time resources that these standards require.  Not only will trust be built, but also a foundation for goal achievement on both the individual and corporate levels.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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