The Law of Unintended Consequences

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Sometimes we want to do the right thing and yet we get the opposite to what we wanted. Lets call it the law of unintended consequences: Every well-intended action could create exactly the opposite reaction. Let’s look at some leadership actions that can create a consequence that was unintended.

Using an All Star Team to Tackle an Important Project

It seems like the right idea – get all your superstar employees together to work on an important project. Unintended consequences: You are not developing your bench strength and other up and comers may leave or get resentful. Your competition could come along and steal your all stars leaving you with nobody left to run the business. Put together teams that mix new employees with high performers – its better both in the short term and long term.

Being too Nice and Easy with Staff

Nice and easy might describe what a young guy is looking for at the bar on a Friday night – it is not what employees are looking for from their boss. Being too nice likely means that the manager is not saying some things that need to be said. They avoid conflict. They avoid confronting a performance problem, hoping it will take care of itself. Unintended consequences: Good employees lose respect for their boss. Poor performers do not improve. Everyone is less happy than the boss intended. Employees want to be challenged and they expect their boss to step up and tackle difficult situations.

Doing Things For People Instead of Helping Them Do For Themselves

We are compassionate and want to help people. When we do things for staff instead of delegating to them we can create an unintended consequence: Dependency. They often are not grateful because we are denying them a chance to feel good about overcoming a challenge on their own. We are also trapping ourselves in doing the same tasks over and over. Tell people what is expected, encourage and support them and do not take the task back from them. After they succeed – congratulate them.

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