It’s natural. People compare themselves to others. When they don’t like what they see, tension rises. In the workplace, this can make managing star employees tough. Coworkers often don’t like them. As a result, they’ll punish and criticize them to the boss.
Falling For Complaints About Star Employees
Too many times though, the boss falls for this negativity. First, it happens because the true value of a star employee is often unclear and understated. Second, seeing how so many coworkers could be wrong is tough.
For instance, early returns from digital performance measurement tools show companies pay low performers too much and high performers too little. They’re undervalued. Moreover, working hard at one’s limits creates tension. It’s easy for any employee, not just stars, to become the lightning rod for the anxiety this tension stirs. He personifies it.
Managing Star Employees And Their Coworkers Through Complaints
The strategy for managing star employees and their coworkers who punish and criticize them has two prongs. The first emphasizes the contribution each one makes to the team. The second has the manager restating her confidence in each. Doing this in one-on-one interactions as they arise is best. Both the star employees and their coworkers need an overdose of both.
When coworkers complain to the manager about a star employee, it’s key not to dwell on the complaints unless there are solid policy or legal implications (i.e. substance abuse, harassment). If coworkers begin to sense that the manager entertains these complaints, then piling on will occur. Moreover, no matter how hard the manager tries, the complaints can and will affect him. They will warp his thinking.
Thus, managers should shift the talk to the value the coworker gives the team. It should shift to their confidence in her. Avoid talk about the star employee. It only invites more comparisons, making things worse.
As for the star employee, the manager should avoid bringing the complaints up to her unless, again, solid policy or legal implications exist. To do so only plants the thought in her that the manager agrees with the complaints.
It’s All About How Coworkers See Their Value
In the end, it’s all how coworkers see their value. The manager plays a key role here. Star employees will cause them to question their value. Reinforcing this value and restating a manager’s confidence goes a very long way to managing star employees, their coworkers and the tension between them.