People tend to compare themselves to others. It’s a natural bias. It takes a dark turn though when they compare and don’t like what they see. At work this shows up in ways coworkers punish star employees. It causes the team to lose prized talent.
Ways Coworkers Punish Star Employees
In short, the star employee becomes a lightning rod for the coworkers’ fears. Those fears center around not being able to perform on the same level. It’s very easy for a whole group to seize on one person as its rod especially if he is different.
The ways coworkers punish star employees can be complaints to the boss about:
- Having little time for others
- Taking up too much of others’ time
- Excluding others
- Asking others to do things he should be doing
- Doing her own thing
- Tackling halfheartedly what’s assigned to him
- Participating and volunteering little
- Dominating discussion and decisions
There are social ways coworkers punish star employees too:
- Excluding from social activities such as lunch, parties and after work events
- Slighting of key personal events such as birthdays, anniversaries, family deaths
- Gossiping to promote a bad personal narrative
- Ignoring or avoiding in “water cooler” talks
- Keeping interactions shallow and only as necessary
Two Social Fears Cause Coworkers to Punish Stars
Two social fears cause this punishment. First, unfavorable comparisons stir a host of fears. They include discomfort, anxiety and jealousy. Second, groups fear outliers. Thus, they force conformity, isolation or expulsion.
From a management view, dealing with this is hard for two reasons. First, these fears erupt on a subconscious level. Coworkers won’t know they’re feeling them.
Thus, when coworkers express them they will come up in ways to punish star employees. They won’t come up in ways that will help managers deal with their fears. For example, they might complain that the star employee isn’t following the rules, working like the others, or being a team player.