Four ways to deal with erring star performers
Most star performers are arrogant, demand special treatment and don't get along with others
They are high on performance, but low on teamwork. If they have a free run, it has a negative impact on the team and the organisation
On April 12, 2013, cricketers Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli engaged in a heated verbal duel on the field when their respective teams Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore faced off against each other. Though the two highly-talented players are captains of their teams and are considered star performers, the on-field behaviour where the two insisted on having their own way led many to ask if cricket was still a gentleman’s game. So, what do you do in such a situation? How do you manage such star performers?
While star performers prove to be an asset to an organisation, they have a dark side too. In companies, there are numerous examples of how most star performers are arrogant, demand special treatment and don’t get along with others. The failure to deal with such individuals or allowing them to have a free run has a negative impact on the cultural fabric of the organisation besides undermining the performance of the entire team in the long term. This disruptive behaviour if left unchecked runs counter to organisational values.
A Harvard Business School study “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks” by Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo contends that most employees would rather work with someone less competent because that person may be more pleasant, open to other’s ideas and more willing to share their own. They may even be perceived as more trustworthy.
But then, if the organisation chooses to retain the employee on performance grounds, should it take any measures to change the behaviour of such star performers? Those in the know argue that in both the cases, there is the probability of a backfire and the organisation can face the risk of losing their star performer. According to Peter Cappelli, professor of management at The Wharton School, the trade-off between talent and disruptive behaviour depends on how important teamwork and morale are in the organisation's culture.
Here are some tips on how to deal with a star performer:
Accountability for behaviour: If you do not hold employees accountable for their behaviour just because they perform well, it makes the company’s values meaningless.
Sharing credit with team: Sometimes star performers walk away with all the credit for a job done well done without acknowledging the contribution of others in the team. The star performers need to be gently reminded of the benefits of sharing credit when it is due. This will improve their relations with others in the team and also gain their respect and admiration.
Focus on interpersonal skills: The star performers should be made to realise that developing interpersonal skills holds the key to good leadership qualities, which is needed along with technical expertise to reach the top.
Regular feedback: Erring star performers should be given regular feedback on how their behaviour is affecting others by both their supervisor and other team members as this will help them to modify their conduct. Coaching and counselling activities can also be resorted to. Besides the 360 degree approach, it is equally important to have direct feedback sessions with star performers so that they know the exact consequences of not changing their behaviour.