[Behavior] The Behavior Gap

Imagine a dynamic team within an organization, consisting of individuals with diverse roles and responsibilities. The team operates with specific expectations set by their leader regarding what they should master, what they need to prioritize and how to conduct themselves.

However, as the team progresses, it becomes evident that the behavior of some team members is not aligned with these expectations. This common leadership challenge of behavioral misalignment (aka The Behavior Gap) can significantly impact team dynamics and hinder overall productivity.

In any organization, it's not uncommon for people to fall short of desired behaviors and expectations. This applies to both employees failing to meet the expectations set by their leaders and, conversely, leaders not meeting the expectations of their team members, or even themselves.

Often, we might understand what needs to be done in theory, but putting it into practice consistently can be a different story.

It's easy to assume that certain behaviors should be common sense, but the reality is that different individuals reason from different foundations. Factors like personal values, cultural backgrounds, past experiences, and varying motivations all contribute to this misalignment.

Regrettably, there is no universal "common sense" shared by a group of people, making it crucial for organizations to address the challenge of The Behavior Gap proactively.


There are several indicators of behavioural misalignment. Some examples include:

  • People confront, criticize or blame eachother for not doing things better/correctly.
  • People grow increasingly frustrated, hostile and bitter towards those who are not conforming to expectations.
  • People are fearful of doing things wrong.
  • People talk about the inadequacies of others behind their backs.
  • Expectations are repeated over and over again ("I've said this a thousand times").
  • Leaders take on too many responsibilities, because they have given up on successfully delegating complex or intricate behavioural expectations.
  • Leaders are reluctant to grow the company due to fear of scaling up the pains associated with behavioural misalignment.
  • People are not happy with the outcome of work, resulting in either stakeholder complaints and/or rework.


When behavioral expectations are not met, the organization experiences several tangible and measurable consequences that significantly impact its effectiveness:

  1. Progress: Objectives are not met as quickly as desired, leading to bottle necks, delays in project timelines and potential missed opportunities. For example, a decrease in delivery targets or a decline in customer satisfaction ratings.
  2. Social: Frustration, anger, and resentment among team members can lead to decreased collaboration and teamwork. This can be reflected in employee engagement surveys, where indicators of low morale and interpersonal conflicts may surface.
  3. Cultural: Misalignment of behavior can result in a divergence from the intended or desired organizational culture. This can be assessed through culture assessments or surveys that measure the alignment of employees' values with the organizational values.
  4. Financial: When expectations regarding quality and outcomes are not met, it can lead to financial implications. For instance, the cost of rework, customer refunds due to product/service failures, or decreased customer loyalty impacting revenue and profitability.
  5. Retention: Disgruntled employees who feel dissatisfied with the misalignment may choose to leave the organization, resulting in increased turnover rates. This can be measured by tracking employee retention rates or conducting exit interviews to identify misalignment as a contributing factor.
  6. Leadership: Fatigue among leaders may be indicated by increased levels of stress, decreased engagement, or burnout. This can be measured through leadership effectiveness assessments or employee feedback on leadership practices.
  7. Blame: Blaming lack of alignment on employees' lack of motivation, disipline, work ethic, sense of responsibility, ambition, intuition, or intelligence can contribute to a negative work environment. This can be assessed through employee surveys or by monitoring the prevalence of blame-oriented language in team interactions.


These are the things people commonly do to work around the problem of behavioural misalignment:

  • Emails, chat messages or meetings addressing inconsistent or undesired behaviour.
  • Attempts to shame or scare people towards the desired behaviour, either by yelling at them, threatening punishment or withholding benefits.
  • Complaining about the organization and coworkers to friends and famility.
  • Justifying the situation or convincing themselves that the challenge can't be solved (what's known in psychology as learned helplessness).
  • Put up signs of behavioural expectations around the workplace in the form of "Your mother doesn't work here".
  • Take on responsibilities that are insufficiently carried out by the people who should be doing them.
  • Take a sick leave, or permanently leave the organization.

Root causes

When behavioral expectations are not met, it is usually due to missing pieces within the areas of:

  • Organizational fit
  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • Clarity
  • Meta awareness
  • Enablement
  • Operations

To analyze and better understand the root causes of a specific behaviour gap, check out the Behaviour gap analysis.