MUST TRY HARDER – when star performers get complacent

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You might think this is a strange question, but it is something we have been asked on more than one occasion – and here’s an admission – I used to be one of those people!

So let me tell you about it from my perspective.

Rewind 5 years ago and I was working as an HR consultant for a small consultancy firm.  Out of the 8 consultants working there I was the highest billing and in my eyes the ‘hardest worker’. I had the most clients and had brilliant relationships with them all.   However towards the end of my tenure there, hand on heart, I wasn’t performing.  By not performing I don’t mean making fundamental cock ups – I was still providing the correct advice and giving the clients a great service – it was more like I simply couldn’t be bothered to do the important, yet oh so boring things like admin, ensuring things were filed correctly, completing my monthly invoicing properly and making sure my expense form was done on time..  I would go home after appointments when I should have come back to the office, and ‘worked from home’ way more than everyone else.

Looking back, the things that I wasn’t doing wouldn’t have impacted on the client work – but as for the business itself and my colleagues, these things I wasn’t doing could have had a big impact.

So why was I doing this? Well honestly I was bored, demotivated and felt completely let down by my boss.  In my eyes I was working my bits off for him, delivering more client work than the other consultants, yet I was constantly overlooked for promotion and when I went to him with a new business idea it was brushed aside and looked down upon. I also felt ignored – months would pass without a one to one, and when it did happen, it was a quick and rushed chat.  My attitude was that they don’t care about me, so why should I do the boring and annoying parts of my job that I had zero interest in..

So why didn’t they performance manage me for my mistakes when they always seemed to take a pretty hard line with others?

Well I guess they were scared of losing someone who was their biggest revenue generator.  Equally I wasn’t difficult to deal with on a day to day basis – I was bright and cheery, always made the coffee, was the one who brought in treats on a Friday or who arranged the drinks on a birthday.  So it was probably far easier for them to bury their heads in the sand, let me get on with it and not deal with the issues I was creating.

But what impact did this have? Well firstly my colleagues must have really started to dislike me.  Why did I get favourable treatment over them? Why was it ok for me not to fill in the admin forms properly but they had to? The impact on the business too must have started to take effect too.  Clients probably weren’t being billed enough as I was too lazy to fill in my timesheet!

So how can you manage this situation if you have a ‘me’ in your business?

  1. Look at why this is happening.  Star performers are generally driven, high achievers, so for them to be slacking is normally an indication that something isn’t quite right or there is a mismatch going on.

  2. Communication.  Make sure you aren’t just letting them get on with the job and leaving them to it.  They might be amazing at what they do, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some regular one to one’s with them. Quite often these personality types need a bit of ego stroking from time to time, and to know they are doing a good job.  By doing this you will build your relationship and hopefully be the first port of call for any issues.

  3. Take responsibility.  As a CEO or Director you have the luxury and responsibility of being the judge and jury.  Have you created the right environment for this person to thrive? Have you been doing all you can?

  4. Be consistent.  As hard as it might be, you have to treat them the same way as other people in your team.  Not only from a potential discrimination angle, but think of team morale and how you glossing over certain behaviours is likely to really upset and demotivate other colleagues.

  5. Make it better.  If you don’t like how things are being played, you must change them.  If they are bored, think of fresh challenges or give them support if they are overwhelmed.  Equally if they are just being plain lazy you must deal with it as you would do anyone else.

If you have people issues within your business – good, bad or ugly we are here to help.  Contact our team of HR consultants in Sussex on 01243 717693.