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Episode #033 – Can You Go Too Far In Worshiping Your Rock Star Employees?

This week’s question comes from Robin, who asks, “I work for a digital media consulting agency. The individual roles are blended,and about ten months ago I ended up managing human resources and payroll. Thatis the exact time I started hearing complaints about Doug (not his real name). He is the darling of the owner because he brings in over 60% of our business,but everyone hates him, and even his clients seem happy to be shifted off hisbooks. He’s done nothing wrong, but everyone hates him. Is there a way I canrein him in without drawing the ire of the boss?”

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If you listen to enough of my podcasts or read enough of my work, you will pick up on some of my many crusades with conventional business wisdom that is outdated. Fostering a culture of Rock Star worship is one of those crusades that I would classify as a specialty.

In my opinion, Doug is a problem. The owner does not realize that Doug is a problem because that is not his job and this is not his problem. The owner’s job is to make sure his business is making money, and Doug is making money.

But Doug is a problem. Your problem as the de facto HR manager and Doug’s supervisor’s because he is directly responsible for Doug’s actions. Even if Doug’s actions will eventually lead to the detriment of the whole company are being totally ignored by the business owner because very good money is coming in.

So your fix to Doug being a problem is not to fix Doug. You can’t fix Doug, and you probably do not need to fix Doug anyway.

You have to technically fix the owner. You have to realistically get the owner to accept a schedule that allows more face time with more employees and not just the top managers and earners.

Rock Star employees are great for the bottom line but difficult to effectively manage. Their way will always trump the company way. Their methods will always trump conventional wisdom. You trade the ability to control the employee when you accept the uber-producing employee.

The counterbalance is to raise the profile of more employees and motivate the masses. Make more time for the lower tier employees to get to know the upper echelon of the company. Explain to the owner that the more time he spends shaking hands with more people in the company, the morale and productivity will increase, and overall revenue will rise.

Doug will still do whatever it takes to be the top at your company, or Doug will leave and be someone else’s problem. You won’t have to worry about lost Doug’s lost revenue because the entire team will have increased the amount of money coming in. With Doug out of the way, you’ll have space for a new, hopefully, less hated Doug. A Doug that wants to bring more people to keep pace with him, not leave more people eating his dust.

By the way, you may have ended up managing human resources and payroll, but you need to get the total time you have been managing those functions documented. Even if you are not getting extra compensation for the added stress and responsibility (and that should be happening), you get to use this as skill and experience within your next job search. I would say you could use it to leverage a raise or official promotion, with you could, but I suspect you hate Doug as much as everyone else but didn’t know the extent of everyone else’s hate for Doug until now.

This Week’s Business Questions Asked Here: Are You Giving Too Much Attention To Your Organizations’ ‘Rock Stars?’ (answer in the comments) 

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