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High Performing Employees who are Poor Team Players


So you have a superstar. Maybe it’s your top salesperson, your highest producing manager, your most creative merchandiser, your most efficient administrator, or someone else in your organization. But what do you do when your superstar isn’t playing with the rest of the team?

For example, you set up a sales process for everyone to follow, but your top salesperson doesn’t use it. Or your highest producing manager is also creating havoc by ignoring company protocols. It leads to some tough decisions. Do you put pressure on your high performers to play the game the same way everyone else is? Or do you make an exception for them, using the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rationale?

The argument for making an exception can appear quite compelling. When you have a salesperson who may be doing double the business of someone else, how do you justify asking them to change? Then there’s the issue of what to do if they won’t change – do you let them go?

The right thing to do is actually pretty straight-forward when you begin to make a list of the pros and cons of the options open to you. What you discover when you really analyze it carefully, is that making exceptions – even for your biggest stars – is never the best choice. Let’s use the example of a top salesperson to illustrate. On the one hand, he (she) is generating a great deal of sales – a very important consideration. On the other hand, there are a number of things to consider: Team morale decreases when they see that the rules don’t apply to everyone. Respect for the manager (you) decreases as you are perceived letting someone ‘walk all over you.’ Your ability to introduce new initiatives decreases. Buy-in to your sales process by other salespeople diminishes. The list goes on.

Ask yourself some questions. Like, “How much would our overall sales decrease if the superstar left us?” Having seen this situation countless times, I can tell you the answer is not much, if at all. The rest of the team almost always rallies to pick up the slack – often generating an overall increase in sales. It’s not unusual to discover that sales were strong for superstar not because of him, but in spite of him. The same holds true with superstars in all other business roles – manager, administrator, merchandiser, etc.

It’s a tough call to be sure, but are you really willing to sacrifice a strong, cohesive team just to keep a single individual?

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