Which employees need help handling setbacks?

Monday, February 24th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

How should project managers treat employees who have suffered a setback at work? Apparently, it depends on how skilled they are at their job in the first place.

According to a recent article on the Harvard Business Review, the best performers actually handle setbacks worse than mediocre workers. To explain why, the news source used baseball as an example.

Specifically, it cited a study conducted by Jennifer Carson Marr of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Stefan Thau of the London Business School. The pair studied baseball's arbitration process, surveying all 199 non-pitchers who have undergone the procedure since 1874.

Arbitration is the system by which players and teams negotiate salary disputes. Typically, it occurs near the end of deliberations, when all other attempts at compromise have failed. That's because arbitration does not allow for a middle ground—teams submit one figure, players submit another, and the arbitrator must choose one.

This makes for an excellent topic of study, because there are clear winners and losers. And since baseball is such a statistics-rich game, it was easy for Marr and Thau to determine whose performance suffered after they went through arbitration.

As it turned out, star players fared much worse after losing out on their bid than mediocre players.

With this in mind, the Harvard Business Review article suggests that managers in the business world should keep a closer eye on their best employees after a setback. After all, it may affect their performance considerably.

At New Leaf Project Management, our programs can help journeymen and superstars alike. Our 2-day program, "Leading Project Teams: The Human Side of Performance," and our online QPM games let you learn while you earn PDU credits for PMP recertification. 

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