My star performer is also the worst behaved person in our business. Help!

My star performer is also the worst behaved person in our small business. They constantly upset other team members as well as refuse to talk/cooperate with others in the company.

My problem is that this person is also the highest revenue earner for our business and a key person, with a strong relationship with our main client – they love him. I am at wit’s end, what do I do about this?

Firstly, I need to put my hand up and come clean with the truth that I am struggling to be objective with this, as I have strong opinions about values and the behaviours that demonstrate living those values.

It must be frightening to be in a situation (especially in these economic times) where you are tolerating behaviours that are potentially undermining your company’s values, ethics and other team members that are committed (or not) to your business.

Often in businesses small and large, exceptionally talented individuals are given more latitude than their less talented peers. It seems like this may be the case here and the question to ask yourself is: how far is too far? The danger is that other team members may decide that this behaviour equals success in your business and begin behaving the same way. Very quickly you will have a culture that you may find others do not want to work in.

Does the end justify the means? Are the sales that are generated by your star performer enough of a payback to risk the future health and growth of your business?

A company grows by having a team of talented people who work collaboratively together, rarely will growth happen with just one talented individual. Therefore, which message is more powerful for the long-term health and growth of your business?

1. We will tolerate poor behaviours if the numbers look good.
2. We will NOT tolerate people in our business who are not contributing to the overall good of our business.

Some other things to consider:

  • What’s the impact of allowing poor behaviours to go unchecked on the long-term health of your business and on the other members of your team?
  • Assess what the prognosis is for the long-term health of your business if you allow these behaviours to go unchecked and unaccounted for.
  • What are you modelling to others in the business about what is acceptable and what is not?
  • Have you had a performance discussion with your star performer?
  • Have you offered some training/coaching for this person? Your business and your star performer may benefit from offering your star performer coaching specifically around their behaviours before it’s gets to breaking point. Assess if you are at breaking point.
  • How far is too far with regards to these behaviours?
  • Are you willing to lose this person if these behaviours do not change?
  • Are you holding this person accountable for their behaviours? If not, why not?
  • Are you potentially opening your business up to litigation (depending on the range of behaviours demonstrated by your star performer)?

It may be time to take a higher level view and refocus the businesses priorities, to weigh up the value that your star performer brings to the cost that comes with this.

The board at David Jones was faced with a similar dilemma when one of their star performers (former David Jones CEO Mark McInnes) was allegedly engaging in behaviours that were not acceptable to the company. They took decisive action. What is the decisive action that you need to take?

Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). In this blog Pollyanna answers questions from our readers on issues they are experiencing leading or being part of a team.  She offers insights on teams and team dynamics. For support and information on team days run by Perspectives Coaching see here. Her previous Blog for SmartCompany, 2nd Time Around was about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round.

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