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Sometimes performance declines because in the mind of the poor performer there are no rewards for good performance nor are there punishments for poor performance. In other words, in the mind of the individual performance doesn't matter. 

Performance that is not followed at least periodically by some kind of positive consequence tends to gradually decline and may even disappear. In other words, the very performance you desire may not matter to the poor performer because he neither gets rewards for good performance nor penalties for poor performance. In the performer's mind, good performance doesn't matter one way or the other.

Other Questions to Ask

Are there favorable and significant consequences if the person performs satisfactorily?


Are there unfavorable and significant penalties if the person performs unsatisfactorily?


What happens when substandard performance occurs? 


What happens when good performance occurs?


If the answer to the last two questions is "nothing," then performance likely doesn't matter to the poor performer.

Analyzing and Solving People Problems

Case in Point 

Paul Cyrus is the sales manager for a large insurance company. His biggest frustration is that most of his sales force seem to never get accurate information on the customer surveys they are required to complete whenever they take an application for insurance. It's driving Paul nuts. Sure sales are good, but it seems that every time a customer survey is sent to the home office some pertinent bit of information is missing. Inevitably, someone from the home office has to call to get the information. Paul has sent emails to his sales force reminding them to complete the surveys, but so far not much has improved.

Today Paul happened to be walking to his car with a colleague named Jerry Foster. The conversation somehow turned to the "survey problem" and Paul expressed his growing frustration. "I had the same problem myself," commented Jerry, "and then one day it dawned on me: my people see no real reason to get all cranked up about filling out the surveys. Sure, they're important to us in gathering marketing data. But think of it from their perspective: when they fill them out completely, nothing happens, and when they fill them out incompletely nothing happens. To them good performance just doesn't matter one way or the other."

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