Cover image for The set-up-to-fail syndrome : how good managers cause great people to fail
The set-up-to-fail syndrome : how good managers cause great people to fail
Manzoni, J. F. (Jean-François)
Publication Information:
Boston : Harvard Business School Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiv, 280 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome -- When common sense fails us -- Set-Up-To-Fail : a vicious circle -- Labels, biases, and misperceptions -- Colluding to collide -- The cost iceberg -- Blinders of our own making -- Cracking the syndrome -- Preventing the Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome : lessons from the "syndrome busters" -- Getting there.
Added Author:
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Item Holds
HF5549.12 .M364 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Does this scenario sound familiar? An employee you manage slips up somehow: a missed deadline, a lost account, or a weak presentation. You decide to oversee that person's work more closely. After all, if your direct reports aren't delivering, it's your head that will roll. To further your frustration, the more you 'help', the worse the employee's performance becomes. What's going on? In this eye-opening book, leadership experts Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux expose a disturbing and surprisingly rampant phenomenon. While common wisdom assumes that so-called poor performers fail in spite of their boss' best efforts, this book demonstrates exactly the opposite. In many cases, a boss' attitudes and behaviors actually cause or 'set up' certain individuals - including those with great potential - to fail. Based on ten years of study into boss-subordinate relationships, Manzoni and Barsoux show that this Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome is not confined to relationships with the proverbial 'boss from hell'. Even respected leaders - whether CEOs, teachers, or coaches - get caught up in it. The problem stems from the fact that while most managers empower and encourage star performers, they tend to micromanage and control perceived 'weaker' performers in ways that stifle self-confidence and drive. The unwitting result: the latter group lives down to expectations, rather than living up to its true potential. The cost of the Syndrome, say Manzoni and Barsoux, goes well beyond the lost productivity of a few individuals. It also threatens to derail careers, takes a heavy toll on morale, and hampers overall organizational results. Through dozens of interviews, illustrative stories, and compelling research, they show how readers can: determine whether they are involved in a set-up-to-fail dynamic, Recognize the mental biases that cause bosses to trigger the cycle; understand how subordinates contribute to fueling the problem; take specific steps to interrupt the cycle through proactive interventions; and, prevent the Syndrome altogether by managing relationships differently. For anyone with influence on an individual's potential, this book offers powerful ways to improve performance - and quality of life - in any organizational setting. Jean-Francois Manzoni is Associate Professor of Management and founding director of the research initiative on High Performance Organizations at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. Jean-Louis Barsoux is a Senior Research Fellow at INSEAD.

Author Notes

Jean-Francois Manzoni is Associate Professor of Management and founding director of the research initiative on High Performance Organizations at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France
Jean-Louis Barsoux is a Senior Research Fellow at INSEAD

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this thoughtful examination of the downward spirals that employers and employees can fall into, management experts Manzoni and Barsoux consider some of the problems that cause a work relationship to end badly. The duo encourages bosses to look inward and examine their own behavior and its effect on subordinates, highlighting the stress of subtly creating a dynamic in which employees "start living down to expectations," among other negative situations. While work relationships are often highly complex and nuanced, the authors point out that in some instances, difficulties result from misunderstood behavior that becomes "self-fulfilling" and "self-reinforcing," a dangerous circle. Manzoni and Barsoux show that highly successful workers generally belong to the "in-group," which boosts self-confidence and provides access to resources not available to those trapped in the "out-group." It comes as no surprise that many morale-lowering problems are avoidable and in some ways predictable, involving basic issues such as fairness, freedom and choice, and the difference between a boss asking rather than telling. And while the road to long-lasting behavioral change is long, it is a type of business investment that has "become a condition for survival in an increasingly demanding world." HR departments and bosses alike would be wise to consult this guide in an effort to build better work relationships, as its nitty-gritty explanations of the "set-up-to-fail syndrome" will raise crucial self-awareness, a useful tool for everyone, regardless of position in the work food-chain. (Oct. 7) Forecast: The 1998 Harvard Business Review article this book is based on was well received, and those who were impressed by it will surely want to learn more. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
1 The Set-Up-to-Fail Syndromep. 1
2 When Common Sense Fails Usp. 17
3 Set-Up-to-Fail: A Vicious Cyclep. 45
4 Labels, Biases, and Misperceptionsp. 67
5 Colluding to Collidep. 87
6 The Cost Icebergp. 113
7 Blinders of Our Own Makingp. 135
8 Cracking the Syndromep. 161
9 Preventing the Set-Up-to-Fail Syndrome: Lessons from the "Syndrome Busters"p. 197
10 Getting Therep. 221
Notesp. 251
Indexp. 271
About the Authorsp. 279