The Surprising Challenges Managers Face With High Performers

Even Superstars have their issues

Hiring and retaining employees is one of the toughest jobs of any manager. So you would think once you have a star employee all your troubles will go away.


True, underperforming employees suck up an inordinate amount of your time until you properly handle the situation. Usually this means letting the person go (for expert advice on firing click here).

However, star players can also bring a set of different challenges that if not handled correctly, may cause some major problems down the road. Here are the top 5 questions you need to ask yourself if you feel your star employee is heading into uncharted territory.

1. What if your high performer suddenly starts making mistakes? This is not an uncommon problem. Oftentimes, a personal development, office politics or some other situation takes the energy out of your usually productive and hard-working employee. Rather than be accusatory, the best course of action is to remind them how much you appreciate their hard work and find out what has been happening lately and how you can help. High performers work at a high level, so if you frame the conversation in a “I’m very surprised as this is really unlike you” way, this may be just enough motivation to get them back in the game.

2. The high performer wants to now work remotely. They’ve proven themselves to be productive members of the team which means they want more flexibility. They want to dictate their hours so long as they keep producing the results. You have a lot of factors to consider, including how this will affect other members of the team. It’s almost guaranteed more will follow suit with the same requests. You have to weigh how valuable it is to keep this high performer happy versus how unhappy this is going to make others who don’t get the perk.

3. The work is not good enough. Related to number 1, not everyone can be perfect. Sometimes a high performer will turn in below average work for a variety of reasons. If this is a one-time thing, acknowledge the work and focus on areas where the work could be improved. Cough up the situation to a miscommunication between what you wanted and what was delivered. If it happens repeatedly, you’ll have to get tougher and tell this person everyone has to keep up at a high level. Then let this person know you are here to help.

4. What if a high performer is doing personal things at work? High performers know they are productive — and oftentimes, take advantage of that special status. You may catch them slacking off on Facebook or running personal errands during the day. It’s a tough thing to deal with but ask yourself: is this directly affecting the person’s productivity? If you’re still satisfied with what they’re doing, then you may have to let those things slide, even if you find them annoying. Just beware that others notice the personal errands too, which may cause resentment.

5. What if high performers don’t adhere to minor policies? This is a similar situation to number 4. Companies have all sorts of policies and while they don’t “bend the rules” the reality is there’s different standards. Obviously, nobody is allowed to steal. But what if your high performer doesn’t take the required training course that everyone else does? Or he/she is charging for car trips that other employees wouldn’t. Do you put them on notice? If the infractions are making it hard to achieve business goals, then you should address them head on. If they’re generally unimportant things, then it might be more rewarding to let your high performer “get away with it”, than take him/her to task.

So next time you think all your problems will go away when you hire that star person, think again. You just might be asking for a different — albeit likely more profitable — set of issues.

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