How many of us have been in that infuriating situation at work when we see that someone doesn’t have to play by the rules just because they are a heavy hitter when it comes to bringing in new clients or because they are a top contributor to the company? Maybe we’ve seen it, been on their team, or even been their boss. These people get away with behavior that conflicts with company culture, and sometimes even company policy, but they’re untouchable because of their value. The truth of the matter is that no matter how big of a contributor a person is, you cannot allow them to be treated differently especially if it impacts the people they work with, their clients, or the company as a whole.
You’re the Boss
Dealing with a person like this is difficult, especially as their boss. How do you keep the high value they bring while also making sure they continue to act as a member of the company? It’s not easy. The situation becomes infinitely easier if they have a bad attitude and bring low or average value to the company. So, how do you lead a person like this? Here are a few suggestions from a woman who has dealt with situations like this numerous times (and even maybe let it slide for too long until I became wiser) for those of you leaders in the same dilemma.
If an employee is a top performer but they have a little bit of bad behavior that is affecting their team or their clients, help them out! Either coach them yourself, if you are able to, or enable them to find a coach that will help them work on their behavior. Many times, people aren’t aware how much their bad behavior affects those around them. If you give people a chance to better themselves, they will usually take it.
Move Them to Where They are Best
Often, bad behavior is a result of a bad fit. Maybe the department, the team, or even the job that the high-performing employee is in can exacerbate or encourage a bad habit. They aren’t playing to their strengths completely so bad behavior is creeping out. Make sure that they are in the department/job that fully utilizes their strengths and that they are part of a team that complements them. If you have trouble here, I highly recommend Strengths Finder. I use it as part of my coaching practice all the time to very successful ends. And if you have problems applying the results, well, you know where to find me 😊!
Don’t be Afraid to be Hard on Them
You are a leader. People are looking to you to be exceptional; to handle those you lead with honesty, humility, and equality. What kind of a message does it send if you make an exception for one person? No one wants to work with this person, complaints have been pouring in from employees, and in worst cases clients, and yet you have not taken any sort of disciplinary action to correct the issue. Those around you will no longer believe you are in charge. They will not see you as a leader they can turn to with issues. Employee engagement and morale will continue to disintegrate as the individual in question continues to spiral it down the drain.
I know this is harsh. And this should really only be applied in cases where the behavior is so exceptionally bad that it can’t be corrected via coaching or because the individual has crossed the line in the worst way. No matter how much of a top-performer they are, you cannot excuse the bad behavior on the logic of “but they bring in a lot of money.” Nothing will bottom out a company faster than an individual with the ability to ignore the rules and culture of a company. And unfortunately, many times when it gets to this point, it is because the individual has not had any mitigating factors from the company that made them change their behavior. Don’t let it get to this point. It’s not good for you, the individual, or the company. But sometimes, it can’t be helped. When that is the case, you must take action.
The point to remember is this. Bad behavior cannot be mitigated by the amount a person contributes to a company. If you see one of your top-performers exhibiting bad behavior, take steps to correct it before it is too late.