Every manager in history has been faced with the challenge of managing difficult employees, which come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There’s the pessimist, who somehow manages to dampen the spirits of the entire team with their downbeat comments. There’s the gossip, who pits fellow team members against one another by sharing unsolicited information. And then there’s the blamer, who somehow manages never to be at fault.
As a manager, you’ve probably been given some guidance on how to deal with these prickly personality types, with the obvious course of action being to rid your team of any toxic influence that might hamper productivity. But what happens if your most problematic employee also happens to be your top performer?
It’s a time-trodden dilemma faced by managers the world over: is your employee’s performance worth the associated impact on your corporate culture? And if so, what can you do to mitigate their adverse influence on those around them?
High achievers are notoriously difficult to manage, as their natural intelligence and drive tends to render them fairly impervious to direction and somewhat averse to teamwork. They also tend to be highly competitive, which can cause further upheaval within a collaborative work environment.
So how do you harness the plentiful positive traits of your troublesome superstars to get the best out of them and your team as a whole?
Here are five easy ways to keep your key assets in check:
CHANGE UP THE CHALLENGE
Superstar employees are happiest when challenged, so if you want to keep their less attractive attributes in check, you’ll need to ensure you keep upping the ante by offering up fresh new projects that get those synapses firing. If your employee feels stimulated by the work on offer, they’ll likely assign more focus to getting things done than causing unease in your office environment.
MIX THINGS UP
High achievers thrive on a varied diet of tasks and responsibilities, so keep your eyes and ears open to any signal that your star’s work agenda is becoming repetitive. Should you not be running the type of operation that boasts a wealth of different facets through which to shuffle your superstar, consider assigning them an intern – someone that’ll revitalise their daily to-do list and give them an added sense of accomplishment.
When your top performers offer up suggestions about better ways of doing things, you’d do well to take on their free advice. Not only are they closer to the action than you and naturally predisposed towards higher productivity, but they’re also likely to feel a greater sense of satisfaction in their role if they feel they’re making a valuable contribution to the business’s broader goals.
REINFORCE POSITIVE OUTCOMES
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that high achievers come complete with a healthy dose of self-confidence. In fact, many superstars tend to be risk averse – fearful that a failed assignment might ruin their carefully crafted reputation. As such, it’s important to reassure your top performers regularly, offering up constructive and encouraging feedback to keep them on side. Remember, you might be well aware of the quality of their output, but they’re probably not as sure of themselves, and need a pat on the back from time to time.