Is One of Your Direct Reports Out of Touch with Reality?  Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am a new manager. I have twelve folks reporting to me and it is going perfectly, except for one person (I will call him “A”). There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between how he sees his own performance (superior) and how others see his performance (subpar).  I am continually confused by this disparity because it is so obvious to everyone but A. 

For example, we just had a performance review cycle where A’s peers identified that he submits work for group projects that is not well thought through, is loaded with errors, and, in some cases, is not even the piece he was supposed to be working on. A’s own self-assessment was that he is way ahead of everyone else and that he should get both a bonus and a promotion! 

I don’t so much want advice on what to do; my company has provided good training and I know how to have the right conversations with A.  I just don’t understand how a person can be so oblivious to their own faults and deluded about their own capabilities.  How does this happen? 

Need an Explanation

Dear Need an Explanation,

Oh, if only I could explain this!  This is one of those questions that has stumped countless philosophers through the ages. This personality quirk has been a great source of entertainment, not the least of which is exemplified in the character of Michael Scott in the TV show “The Office.” I agree it is confounding—and it also makes me constantly worried that others might think this about me!  Self-awareness is just so tricky.

What we are talking about here is known in my business as Emotional Intelligence, which comprises awareness of self, awareness of others, and the ability to modulate or regulate oneself to be successful with others.  The research shows that high emotional intelligence is a success indicator—and that the kind of obliviousness A demonstrates will eventually curtail his ambitions.

In our book Leverage Your Best—Ditch the Rest, Scott Blanchard and I offer the Three Perspectives, which are:

  • How do see myself?
  • How do others see me?
  • How do I need to be seen to be successful in this situation?

Once a person has a sense of how to answer those questions, they can figure out what to do about them.  In the meantime, I cannot explain how someone can be as oblivious as A seems to be.  We can speculate—and goodness knows I do, all the time.  Maybe it is all an act and A is worried sick about measuring up, so he is overcompensating.  Maybe he had parents who raised him to believe he could do no wrong.  Who knows?  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  I think the better question may be this: how can you help A?  You may simply want to present the disconnect and ask him what he thinks about it.  He may have something interesting to say.

Good luck,

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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