Performance Blind Spots

An overview of the most common blind spots and how can they be highlighted for our organization’s workforce in a positive way that solicits change.

We are all human, and with that comes a set of experiences and assumptions that guide how we act, react, lead, work and interpret the world around us. This also means that there are likely performance weaknesses and opportunities that go unseen by all of us, blind spots if you will. These can’t be helped or avoided, no matter how much self-awareness we might have. Just like driving a car, there are certain things that are invisible to the eye when focusing on looking forward and not checking all angles.

Even the best leaders or top performing employees have blind spots. A study by Development Dimensions International Inc. found that 89% of front-line leaders have at least one blind spot in their leadership skills. This is why a company’s workforce should be encouraged to look over their shoulders and check their blind spots every once in a while so that nothing sneaks up to side-swipe them.

So what are the most common blind spots and how can they be highlighted for our organization’s workforce in a positive way that solicits change?

Let’s start by looking at the 3 most common types of workplace blind spots and how to bring hidden opportunities into the light.  



The issue: An HBR Blog pointed out that people who lack the skills to perform, most often lack the ability to judge performance. This means that poor performers will not know they are actually under-performing in their role unless it is pointed out to them. On the other end of the spectrum, The Harvard Business Review found 50% of high performers expect to meet with their manager at least once per month to discuss their performance so they aren’t guessing about their results. This means that all employees, regardless of output, have blind spots when gauging their own performance.

The fix: To avoid any gaps in perceived performance, managers need to embrace their fundamental duty – to coach performance. This means that constant feedback (positive and developmental) needs to take place regularly and honestly so that employees are completely aware of how they are performing relative to expectations. Good feedback is easy and lets employees know when they are on-track. Critical feedback on the other hand can be tough and is sometimes avoided like the plague. Managers should get into the habit of having regular (not just once a year) performance conversations with employees to shed some light on any areas for improvement and successes in performance.

Here are some great resources for encouraging a feedback culture in your organization:



The issue: Poorly defined expectations often leads to poor performance. If an employee is not given clear expectations for output and conduct, then of course they are not going to recognize when they are falling short or exceeding. A Gallup Poll found that only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Similarly, if leaders aren’t aware of employee expectations for coaching and management, then they won’t be able to recognize when there is a gap. Too often, performance expectations aren’t in place, leaving unseen opportunities and dangers hidden from employees. This results in unexpected collisions when teams or entire organizations aren’t meeting objectives.

The fix: HR and Managers should work together to clearly define employee expectations and goals at the beginning of the review cycle and work to monitor and update those expectations throughout the year. HR should start by cascading company or department objectives to the entire organization as well as any objectives that are specific to roles or employee groups (like leadership objectives). Then we suggest letting managers and employees work together to create a set of agreed-upon SMART goals so the employee knows what is expected of them and when. But be warned! Goals can expire quickly. Encourage frequent check-ins and feedback sessions between managers and employees where overall performance is discussed and goals are reviewed and updated as needed so that employees are never veering off course for too long.



The issue: To best illustrate this blind spot, please take a look at the image below.

Kanizsa Triangle

This is the Kanizsa Triangle and it is an optical illusion where the brain needs so desperately to close any perceived gaps that it sees something that might not be there (in this case, some triangles). The same principal can be applied to how we are perceived by others around us in the workplace. How our peers, managers, and direct reports perceive our behavior and intentions is most often radically different than what we perceive it to be, leaving giant gaps and blind spots where danger can lurk.

Unfortunately, in the workplace, perception is often reality. If left unchecked, employees and managers will have no idea if their behavior (intentional or not) is hindering the performance or satisfaction of those around them.

The fix: The best way to learn how your behavior is perceived in the office is to ask your colleagues, managers and direct reports. However, just like how people find it tough to receive feedback, they find it even more uncomfortable to give feedback, especially when it is constructive criticism. The good news is that HR can help. By fostering a culture of accountability, transparency, and feedback, employees and managers will know that it’s okay to solicit and give feedback. Company 360° reviews can also facilitate not only bottom-up and top-down feedback, but it can also facilitate horizontal and team feedback. Because 360° feedback can be anonymous, raters will also be more likely to provide honest feedback.

360° reviews can uncover blind spots in one’s own behavior that they would not have seen, helping to increase self-awareness and drive continual development. Even better, 360° feedback can reveal blind-spots and gaps in performance and expectations as well!

It is never too late for managers and employees to take a look over their shoulders and see what opportunities or dangers might not be obvious to them. HR can greatly facilitate this by enabling better and more ongoing feedback & coaching, helping employees and managers to set and update goals and objectives, and by facilitating the collection and use of multi-rater 360° feedback.

Want help identifying blind spots? emPerform offers the tools needed to check and address performance blind spots like 360° reviews, effective goal management and ongoing feedback.  We invite you to visit our website to learn more or contact us at 1.877.711.0367.