Is supporting star performers an act of favouritism?

It is natural for managers to be more inclined towards high performers. However, they may not even realise that their employees may view this is as an act of bias

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Having star employees in a team is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, a company really needs people who can go out of their way and perform exceptionally well. On the other hand, there is always a situation wherein the star performer in a team gets recognised and favoured repeatedly by the manager, which makes others burn in envy.

The general feeling among the envious team members would be that the handful of ‘so called’ high performers not only get recognised frequently but also manage to get away with a lot of things.

It is not only the monetary rewards, but also many small things that matter. For instance, when high performers give suggestions or ideas in a meeting, the managers tend to always pay them more attention, leaving the others feeling unheard. The managers often overlook the work of high performers, compromising quality of work in the process, whereas other average employees are always scrutinised closely. Managers tend to be lenient with high performers when they leave early from office or report late for work.

“It’s okay to accommodate high performers to a certain extent and give them some leverage. If we start terming such gestures as favouritism the whole concept of meritocracy will be termed the same”

Paramjit Singh Nayyar, CHRO, Hero Housing Finance

These small actions may appear to be acts of favouritism from the point of view of the employees, while the managers may not even realise it.

Is this what favouritism really looks like?

High performers are the blue-eyed boys for managers, and why shouldn’t they be? After all, they are the ones who work hard and give more time to their work and are certainly performing better than the others. Therefore, excusing them for certain shortcomings should not be a problem, right?

Anil Misra, CHRO, JioMart-B2B Grocery, believes that being inclined towards high performers is quite natural for managers, as they work towards fulfilling the dreams and goals of the organisation.

“Being accommodating towards star performers is pretty much fine in a business environment,” says Misra.

Paramjit Singh Nayyar, CHRO, Hero Housing Finance, admits that it is not possible to give the same employee experience to every employee. It will all depend on the kind of performance they deliver, otherwise high performers will not be motivated to perform further in the company. “It’s okay to accommodate high performers to a certain extent and give them some leverage. If we start terming such gestures as favouritism the whole concept of meritocracy will be termed the same,” states Nayyar.

How does being a high performer give one the liberty to get away with everything? “Managers have to make sure that the star performers do not cross certain boundaries and take undue advantage just because they are high performers,” says Rajorshi Ganguli, global head- HR, Alkem Laboratories.

“Being accommodating towards star performers is pretty much fine in a business environment”

Anil Misra, CHRO, JioMart-B2B Grocery

In a team, there will always be different categories of employees. The first category of A-grade employees comprises the star performers, then come the B-grade employees who are average performers followed by the C-grade employees who are non-performers and need some coaching and skill building to go into higher roles.

Though it is very much important to recognise the A-grade employees, we should not ignore the B and C categories or else they are likely to quit or remain demotivated and never really perform to the expected level ever.

How do we create this balance?

Nayyar feels that equal opportunities to grow should be given to one and all. He shares that in one of his previous firms, star performers were not just given high-intensity projects whenever such projects came along simply on the basis of their past performance. Each employee had to bid for the project and present a pitch. The project was given to the most deserving employee after proper evaluation and consideration.

Ganguli also emphasises on the importance of managers building relations with everyone. More often, managers may just interact with the high performers in the company because of which others may end up feeling ignored. “Equal opportunity to interact and deliberate has to be given to all,” advises Ganguli. He also points out that not everyone can be a high performer. In a team, each member has a role, and everyone does perform in their own capacity.

“Managers have to make sure that the star performers do not cross certain boundaries and take undue advantage just because they are high performers”

Rajorshi Ganguli, global head- HR, Alkem Laboratories

Misra explains that everybody starts from zero, and therefore, in the beginning, all should be given a fair chance. However, moving forward, rewarding meritocracy in the organisation can send across a great message to the employees, and as a result, even average performers will start developing themselves to perform better. “When a clear message is sent out that mediocracy has no place in the organisation, even average performers are motivated to improve, and it is only fair that they be given a chance to do so,” asserts Misra.

Clearly, it is considered just fine to be accommodating towards star performers in a business environment. However, managers should be careful not to overdo it. Moreover, such accommodation should be made on merit, only then does it become fair to all. At the same time, however, B and C grade employees should be encouraged instead of being left ignored in a corner. The key is for managers to strike a balance.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good article. High performance shall be demonstrable to all. If it is just the perception of the manager it demotivate all and many employees may become hostile to the organization.

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