A year ago, I wrote about NPS – Nice Person Syndrome, a “condition” most managers have that causes inconsistent accountability. To help you assess if you have NPS, answer the following questions:

1. Are staff not held consistently accountable in your firm?

2. Do you come up with justifiable reasons when expectations are not met?

3. Are reprimands or terminations delayed or do not happen at all?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you have at least a mild form of NPS. Don’t worry, it’s not terminal.

To succeed as a salesperson or recruiter, you have to be a nice enough person (or able to fake nice) to build relationships. These same nice people end up as managers and, as managers, it does not feel nice to hold other people accountable. That’s why virtually every manager has some degree of NPS. The nicer you are as a person, the worse your NPS tends to be.

Sharon, a manager who read that post, took this to heart and immediately began watching for specific instances where her NPS showed up. “I was amazed how many times each week my NPS was running the show,” said Sharon. To combat this, she began some coaching with me and we discussed specific strategies to counter this issue. “The most important thing you shared was that I am not responsible for my first thought, but I am responsible for my next action. My first thought is often how much I dislike holding people accountable. My next action was to do it anyways because, if I don’t, I will be contributing to their failure.” Within three months of our work together, Sharon had improved the productivity of her team by more than 40%.

The important thing to recognize is that feeling discomfort at holding other people accountable is normal, with reprimands, layoffs, and firings feeling even worse. Life is full of things we don’t like, yet we do them anyways. Even though it may not feel good, holding others to a standard that will help them succeed is the right and compassionate thing to do.

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Comment by Bonnie Brooks on September 27, 2012 at 1:24pm

If I may, I'd like to add another point to the NPS that is particularly relevant in today's unstable job market. Letting someone go. Yes, to terminate an employee if he/s is not performing at an acceptable level - not adding value to your business. LET THEM GO. The NPS is not doing this employee any favors by keeping them out of pity (i.e. she has a family, poor job market). This employee knows they are not cutting it - their co-workers know it (often resulting in a lack of respect for the employee AND the company). Let them find something that they can excel at and they will gain the respect of the company and a healthy respect of themselves. Letting go is hard, but it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Comment by Scott Wintrip on October 2, 2012 at 2:48pm

Right on Bonnie. Letting someone who cannot meet the needs of the company is an act of compassion, allowing both parties to get on with their lives.

Comment by Bonnie Brooks on October 2, 2012 at 3:01pm

Let's spread the word - so many think compassion means to hang on - when in fact, compassion is letting go!  


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