Are you underperforming or just in the wrong place?

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Patricia Guerreiro
GCG Coach
Achieving professional success can be an overwhelming goal for many.

Whilst previous generations strived for job security and stable pay, employees nowadays look for recognition and affirmations to flourish. Furthermore, in this world of Social Media and the rise of the notorious “like”, we anxiously crave for more instant gratification and positive response to our ideas. This has heightened the importance of feedback and when this feedback repeatedly happens to be negative and not what we were expecting or had hoped for, we doubt ourselves. Some might even get to the point of questioning their performance overall.

Yet, is that negative feedback underperformance or are we simply not in the environment we would thrive in?

In a situation of a negative feedback spiral, we tend to self-deprecate and question our own capabilities. It is therefore necessary to take some time to reflect and distance ourselves from the situation we find ourselves in. Not being able to get the job done can go much beyond just “underperformance”.

Before jumping to any conclusion, ask yourself the following questions:


1. Am I with the right boss for me?

A Gallup poll of more than 1 million employed U.S. workers concluded that the no. 1 reason people quit their jobs is because of a bad boss or immediate supervisor. 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. In other words, employees do not leave companies, roles or teams, they leave bosses.

So, you might think: what defines a great boss? Instead, try to look at this from a different angle. You should rather be asking yourself “what defines a great boss for ME?” What are the traits that you value in someone leading you? Now, let aside all your emotions towards your current boss. Think with a broader perspective: If your leader is someone who spends his/her evenings calling you up and flooding your e-mail while you value switching off after work and spending time with family, will you and your boss get along?

Pause for a moment here. Take one deep breath.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What values does my boss stand for?
  • What are the three aspects of my job that are the most important to me? Have I communicated them to my boss?
  • Is my boss aware of my preferred ways of working and does he/she respect them?
  • What are the areas that my boss and I most disagree on? Are they manageable or overwhelming?
  • Does my boss trust me and my work?
  • Do I receive the recognition I assume to be deserving from my boss?
  • Is my boss aware of my career aspirations and is he/she helping me to achieve them?
2. Am I in the right team for me?

If we do the math, you will figure out that you spend approximately three hours a day with your partner and more than six hours with your team (in the case you are working full-time). In other words, you will spend more time with your colleagues than with your partner. How important is it to choose your team wisely just like you would with a life partner? Very. It is key to surround yourself with the people that will help you flourish, grow and perform well.

Close your eyes. Picture your team.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What conversations do I want to be a part of and am I able to have these with my colleagues?
  • How do I relate to the people I spend the most time with when working?
  • Do my colleagues and I share similar personal values?
  • Do I feel supported by my immediate team?
  • Do I feel safe and respected by my colleagues and do they value and appreciate me?
3. Am I in the right position for me?

Are you completing tasks and getting involved in projects that are in line with your strengths and interests? You might have studied economics, history or law but who you are as an employee and a contributor to the business’ success goes much beyond what you studied. Think to yourself what your competitive advantage is and how you differentiate yourself from those around you, on both personal and professional level. To go from good to great you must align your top strengths and skills to what you are passionate about and align those to your current position or you will gain nothing but high levels of frustration.

Now, again, take a deep breath.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is required from me in me current position? Is it aligned to my strengths and interests?
  • What is the feedback I regularly receive from different people, not just my boss?
  • What brings me most joy at work and in my private life?
  • Which skill/talent do most of my friends admire about me?

Bottom line, before you convince yourself you are an ‘underperformer’, question if you are in a job where you can and want to outperform yourself.

4. Am I in the right organization for me?

Every company has core values. You can mostly find them on the company’s website, coffee mugs or on posters around the office. If you are thinking long and hard what they are, then probably either you or the company do not live them on a daily basis. On the other hand, you might be aware of the core values, but top management decisions or companywide developments simply do not adhere to those core values. As a person, your core values are non-negotiable. Same goes for most organizations. If there is a significant misalignment between these values, chances are, you are working for the wrong company for you.

One last time. Pause, and count to three.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are my own values?
  • What are my company’s values?
  • Are the company’s values in line with my own personal values?
  • Is my company not living its own values?
  • Do my colleagues and my direct boss live those values too?
  • Does the purpose of the organisation speak to me and is it a cause that I want to work for every day?

If you feel you are pushing yourself hard at work but not getting the results you hoped for, give yourself a break. And not just a coffee break. Take some actual thinking time to reflect where you are right now. Ask yourself the questions above and jot them down. The answers will be more enlightening than you think and can help you take the right steps towards a path that makes more sense for what you stand for and how you work. Underperformance is used incorrectly numerous times. It does not necessarily mean that you are bad at your job nor does it mean that your boss is unfair. It might just mean that you are in the wrong place for you or working with the people that you are simply not compatible with.



About the Authors

Rimli Das Gupta

Applied Economics & Finance graduate, CEMS alumna and HR/Talent Acquisition professional, Rimli has been working in career & talent development for more than six years. Supporting others in taking decisions in their career choices and unfolding the questions “what is my passion?” and “what is my purpose?” both professionally and in her personal life, is what drives her. 

Her best career advice: Be a lifelong learner in all aspects of your life. You certainly do not know everything now, but you can be open minded to learn anything that comes your way.


At GCG, we provide expert coaching for leaders at all levels of leadership in organizations of all shapes and sizes. Through democratizing coaching for all, we help everyone from high potentials on through to CEOs. Click here to learn more about our coaching services for professionals or if you’re interested in our coaching services for your organization, visit this page.


Follow GCG on LinkedIn for  best guides, tips, and lessons to keep your leadership learning going.

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Patricia Guerreiro

GCG Coach

Economics graduate, CEMS alumna with an MBA from IE Business School, Patricia is a former Management Consultant turned Executive Coach. Having uncovered her true passion and drive in guiding others to becoming the next best versions of themselves, she now focuses on helping people find a job they love and creating better leaders and teams.

Her best career advice: When looking for a job don’t just stick to job posting on career portals. Leverage your network and reach out to your contacts. 80% of the job market is hidden and you’ll only have access to it by talking to people!

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