My star performer is getting harder to handle. Help!

Dear Aunty B,

We’ve got a real star in our business. He’s a consistent top performer, he’s got oodles of experience and, frankly, he’s driven our growth for the past few years.

But he’s really difficult to work with and the wider team is suffering.

The problem is my star is a bit arrogant, so he never really listens to the ideas of others, he doesn’t like sharing success and credit and he sees everyone as competition – inside and outside the business.

He does take younger staff under his wing, but it’s usually only when they can be of some use to him.

I need his results, but I hate what I’ve let him do to the culture. Is there a way out of this?




Dear KG,

It’s a very hard balance to get right. You want results, you need results, but often results blind you to what’s going on behind the scenes to get those results.

I was reading a great blog from the Harvard Business Review website by a guy called Eric C. Sinoway, who identified what he calls cultural vampires. Here’s his description:

These employees perform well but in a manner that is at cross-purposes with desired organizational culture. Because their functional performance is strong, they acquire power and influence. Over time, they also acquire followers: The zombies who share their different set of values and aspire to better performance. Soon, there’s a small army of vampires and zombies attacking the stars, high potentials and leaders who are doing the right thing.

Sound familiar?

I’m not sure if you’d go so far as to call your problem person a vampire and his followers zombies, but Sinoway’s point is that, in the long term, culture is much more important than results.

Does this mean you will have to get rid of your star? That probably depends on his capacity to change. If you haven’t pulled him up on his behaviour, there might be a chance you can show him the detrimental effect he’s having on the team and ask him to change his ways and show some leadership.

If he’s a real vampire, this won’t work. If he can change, you might be able to get the best of both worlds – a star who can create other stars.

But I’ve got to say: It’s a very big if.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B

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