When I suggest to Managers or Executives that they may be punishing their best performers, they are always taken aback. But I see it in so many organisations and in so many work groups – and it is surprisingly common.
There’s someone in the team who is not living up to expectations. They always let you down. No matter what the task, how easy, urgent or important, you can never rely on this person to deliver. But over there, is your shining Star. This one never lets you down. No matter how busy they are, no matter what the request or circumstance, even if they have to cancel their own plans – this one will come through for you.
You find yourself telling the other Managers and Executives what a Star performer you have in your team. You cannot believe how much you have come to rely on your Star. Sometimes you forget to tell your Star how valuable they are; but other times you “make up” for it by displaying what you believe to be great acts of generosity (a 5.00 o’clock “early mark”).
One day your Star drops by your office looking a bit nervous. The Star tells you that although they really love working for you – they just must leave. They will tell you it is for personal reasons, or that they weren’t looking for another job – but someone phoned them out of the blue, and made them an offer they could not refuse.
And long after they leave, you talk about how fabulous your Star was.
Truth is, the Star was just totally burned out. They just could not do it anymore. Putting in long hours day after day; taking work home; cancelling plans – and no matter what they did, how hard they tried, how much they gave, they were asked to do more.
But worse, they saw day after day, the Slacker over in the corner, talking on the phone, updating Facebook, taking long lunches and walking out the door before everyone else. The Star could not understand why the Slacker got to do nothing, and everything was piled onto their own shoulders. The Star burned out. The Star walked.
Some Managers can create this issue by expecting far too much from their people in general and then overburdening the few that perform. Other Managers quite simply do not seem to be able to listen when their Stars say “I can’t do any more”. This is understandable because when you tell them they “just have to”, they don’t ever let you down.
Then there is the Manager I like to call the Super Star. The Super Star sweeps into your organisation and announces that no problem is too big – they can fix anything. Not only that, they can fix all the problems with half the staff and in half the time. The Board sits up and takes notice. They are very impressed with their Super Star. “CEO” material” they all say. Even better – no one can overload the Super Star – they will take on every project on offer – and half the departments if you let them.
Think of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. From what we are told, every night on the News, Rudd had a new plan to sell; a great new idea that would fix the latest problem – in half the time and at a lower cost.
Then he would go back to his staff and give them their new objectives and time lines.
Problem was, they were already overloaded. Rudd had not asked anyone if his plan would work – in fact, there was no plan; just and idea and a time line – based on nothing except his own thought process. Consultation did not seem to be in his vocabulary. When others told him his demands were impossible – he would not listen. He was not going to take “No” for an answer. Rudd was the Super Star; and the voters loved him. In fact, as long as you did not have to work for him, Rudd seemed to be an outstanding Leader.
The Slacker and the Super Star are corporate poison. Like Rudd – all may look and sound good – but everything is falling apart underneath. Your Super Stars and your Slackers drive your best people out.
This is unsustainable management. If that’s not enough to convince you, then keep in mind in today’s environment, these situations can also lead to Bullying claims and workers compensation claims. The cost of the damage, the cost of the loss of your best staff and the cost of replacing these staff is much greater than whatever gain the organisation is experiencing.
If you are reading this and recognise yourself as a potential Star – then speak up. Unless your Manager is the Super Star, they need to hear what is going on. I can tell you now, most Managers do not want to lose their Stars. They are mostly genuinely surprised to discover the impact on you.
If your manager is the Super Star – and if there is no one to help you sort it out within your organisation, you need to have an exit strategy, and in the mean time, a strategy to manage your boundaries. No job is worth your health and your sanity.
As an employer, if you suspect you have a Super Star in your midst, resist the temptation to just hope they are not causing any damage! You need to do some serious and very careful investigating. You will need outside help to get to the bottom of it.
Not dealing with performance issues will ultimately cause more pain to the whole organisation than actually taking steps to manage the problems.
Tackling the tough issues is not pleasant, but once you have started the pressure will start to ease. You will have the possibility of creating a new and much better culture which produces better results than ever before.
Stars should be rewarded. Super Stars need some serious monitoring and coaching – but may not ultimately be worth the pain.
And strangely Slackers probably can actually turn into Stars if they have the opportunity (either voluntary or forced) to find a role – either inside or outside – that actually motivates them to do their very best!
If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, contact me here at Worksense. We can work together to make your work better!