An article in the Harvard Business Review (March/April 1998) addresses the question of who's fault it is when an employee fails or performs poorly - and suggests that often the blame lies largely with the boss, not the employee.
The authors (Manzoni and Barsoux of INSEAD) describe the Set-Up-to-Fail syndrome, a dynamic that sets up perceived under-performers to fail. For example a boss, worried that a subordinate's performance is not up to par, takes what seems like the obvious action - he increases the time and attention focussed on the subordinate. Unfortunately, this heightened supervision is often interpreted as indicating a lack of trust and confidence. In time, this may lead the subordinate to doubt their own ability, lose motivation, cease making autonomous decisions and withdraw their commitment. Ironically, the boss sees the subordinate's withdrawal as proof that the subordinate is indeed a poor performer. He therefore increases his pressure and supervision further, thus further influencing the subordinate to fail. So is set up a pattern that is self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing - the quintessential vicious circle.
The authors have suggestions for how to disentangle from the Set-Up-to-Fail syndrome and prescriptions for avoiding it in the first place. The article provides an excellent resource for any coaching or mentoring clients who are seriously interested in working in the "Insight" phase of the Renewal process and who are willing to take responsibility for what they co-creating with their colleagues.