Why does one employee performs better than another?

In the last post, we explored the signs of a “working dead” employee. In this post, we examine what creates a sleepwalking staff.

It is true that company culture and HR policies do impact employee motivation and engagement. However, with external work conditions, incentives and environment being the same, why do some employees outperform others? The key differing variable is the employee himself or herself (I will use the masculine noun hereon). What goes on in this employee that makes him disengaged at work? Let’s look at the theory behind this and three inter-related causal factors.

Timothy Gallwey, a former sports coach and author of “The Inner Game”, explains lacklustre performance with this equation:

p p i


Performance rarely equals Potential. The biggest barrier is Interference.

What is this Interference that is costing companies losses in revenue?

Interference is negative inner talk that manifests in behaviour that jeopardises performance. It is categorised into three inter-related factors.


They can either help you or harm you. Margaret Thatcher shared this revelation:


Our thoughts pay us no service when we are criticising, disparaging and scaring ourselves in our own minds.

The most frightening thought of all thoughts is that we tend to get carried away and get lost in our own thoughts. We are unable to catch ourselves, to stop, reflect and assess the quality of our thoughts.

How we think is influenced by the beliefs that we have. Beliefs are shaped by external characters like our family, friends, religious leaders, politicians and society at large informing us on what is right or wrong, acceptable or detested, or conforming or rebelling. Our judgements of ourselves may be biased by these outside influencers.

They say awareness is the first step to change. Out of the 50,000-70,000 thoughts you think in a day, what is the percentage of positive thoughts that are serving you well?


What is the correlation between thoughts and emotions? A thought has power when it is fuelled by a strong emotion behind it. When the feeling about a thought is strong, it reinforces and gives validation to the thought.

If a large portion of our thoughts are negative, which do we change first? We change the thought that has been overwhelmed by a negative emotion, the strongest negative emotion.

We have four big negative emotions that disturb us – fear, guilt, criticism and resentment. If these negative emotions continue to lodge and fester in you, it will one day spill over and affect your behaviour and response towards your boss, colleagues and work partners.

If you feel like you are going to explode anytime and feel like a wreck but don’t know where to begin, here is a useful exercise that can be done:

In each of the major areas in life, list out all the negative thoughts you have about it. Then, group them into each of the four negative emotions and see which one has the most. That will be the most urgent emotion to work on.


What we do is based on what we think and feel. Our behaviour and actions feeds back to reinforce our way of thinking and feeling. If you think that life has to be perfect and feel critical of yourself when you do not achieve perfection, your likely behaviour is one of agitation when you do not get what you want or when others do not deliver to your expectations. If you continue to be unable to accept imperfections, you persist with your core belief that perfection is possible, allowing it to once again affect your emotions when disappointments occur. This is a pressurising way to live and it makes attaining contentment that much harder. The trick then is to break this cycle by identifying the root interference – is it the thought, emotion or behaviour? 


As to how to weed out the root cause, join me on Friday 2 September for dinner and a talk where I will share on how to find happiness at work.