Results vs. Efforts and the Communications Gap

Nov 25, 2018 8:48:37 AM

If you are a manager, then you’ve had at least one difficult and uncomfortable conversation with an employee regarding their performance.  Usually, the conflict arises because of the different perspectives you and your employee may have, concerning what an acceptable performance is.


As a manager, you are result-driven. You look at dashboards and focus on quantitative progress depicted by numbers and percentages. Employees, on the other side, are more effort-driven. What they know best is how much effort they have put, the amount of pressure they have handled and the number of extra hours they have invested in their work to allow their tasks to be completed in a timely and appropriate manner. If the results are not achieved, the employees cannot be blamed. The problem is, for sure, somewhere else.

A Simple Story

Before digging deep into this dilemma, let us have a look at a simple real-life example:

Peter and John work as part-time translators. They are paid on weekly basis, based on the number of completed hours (Rate= $10/hour). One week, Peter submitted his timesheet, showing 15 hours work for 30 translated pages. John’s timesheet showed 25 hours for the same count of pages.

Based on their reports, Peter was paid $150 while John was paid $250. Although the payment aligned with the initial agreement with both employees, their manager was hesitant about it. He was actually more satisfied with Peter’s speed and productivity, since he has been producing better results in a shorter time frame. Although his colleague, John had a slower production level, he was receiving a higher pay.


The source of unreasonableness in the above example is clear: The appreciation was connected to the EFFORT being exerted (time of hours spent at work), not with the RESULT produced (the count of translated pages).

The issue is very clear and, in this example, could be easily solved, because it is one dimensional and straightforward. However, the situation can get vague and the boundaries become blurred in more dynamically complex situations where multiple measures are evaluated, several parties contribute to the same result, and other external factors must be considered.



The Problem

There is a severe disconnect between employees’ and managers’ views of achievement; between what employees consider as recognition-worthy efforts and what managers call getting the job done. This is a major cause of endless arguments in the workplace, most notably seen during performance reviews. Usually, managers focus on the results, disregarding of the amount of effort involved. They see results as a proof that the JOB IS DONE, a means to an end. 

On the other side, employees feel oppressed. At the end of the day, they have used their maximum ability to produce masterpieces in their own rights. They have gone out of their way, worked extra hours, and dealt with a variety of conflicts and dependencies in addition to handling crippling levels of stress. Yet, that was not taken into consideration when the end result was evaluated.

As this disconnect of expectations grows between managers and their employees, the communication gap widens as well. Managers will continue to grow frustrated and eventually, employees will feel under-estimated and trapped, prompting them to eventually look for other jobs.  


The Solution

An effective formula emphasizes the correlation between results and efforts and establishes the right balance between them. However, the final accepted performance should be always linked to the achievement of results, not the amount of effort exerted. I can hear a sigh of relief coming from managers reading this, while I am also sure employees would debate the merits of putting significant amounts of effort into a task, only to have it disregarded. It doesn’t seem worth it, right?

Wrong. Effort leads to results. For this reason, it cannot be ignored. In fact, effort constitutes a large portion of the success formula. However, defects exist when the focus is aimed solely at executing efforts, while remaining ignorant on defining them first, before acting on the said effort. 


What Are Results and Efforts?

Sometimes, the line distinguishing results from efforts is very blurred, allowing them to overlap significantly. Falling into this trap results in focusing on the less important aspects, and measuring outputs as opposed to measuring outcomes.


The definitions given below, should help in clarifying the concepts:

  • Results are outcomes. They describe the jobs that the employee was hired to do. Results must be S.M.A.R.T and should be defined in terms of targets that can be clearly measured. If the targets are achieved, the results are accomplished, and the job is done.
  • Efforts are actions. They specify the plan that must be executed to achieve the results. The right efforts should drive and impact results.

In Summary



Outcomes – Goals with defined targets and timelines

Actions – Activities that drive the achievement of results

Conclusive – Inform if a job is done

Predictive – Indicate moving towards getting the job done

Non-influenceable – Not moved by will

Influenceable – Moved by will

Fixed – shouldn’t change very often

Adjustable – can change and be refined more frequently

Lagging - By the time we get them, they have already happened and cannot be changed

Leading – Executing them will eventually lead to attaining the results

Long Interval Measurement – Measured across long intervals, to allow achievement of targets

Short Interval Monitoring – Monitored within short intervals, to ensure progress and easier adjustment














So, Now What?

Your next step should be to have a deep look at your employees’ performance measures. Are they separating results from efforts or mixing them? Are they focusing on outcomes or outputs? Are you rewarding achievement or activities? Are you summing up completed activities to indicate achieving a result?

Create a table where you list the results you aim to achieve in one column, and your plan to achieve them in another column. This will be your first step towards effective execution.

In the coming articles, I am going to walk you through a simple execution methodology, that accounts for your results and efforts and helps you to establish a common agreement with your employees on the expected results to be achieved and the actions required to achieve them.


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