Is it right for managers to have soft corner for high performers?

Behavioural issues of high performers, if overlooked, can make the culture of an organisation toxic.


A very good friend of mine shared one of her experiences, where a team member was more favoured by her manager in terms of leaves and waivers in attendance. The realisation that her manager was more inclined towards that particular employee made her furious and frustrated. She learned that she was not the only one irked by this ‘favouritism’ and that other team members too disapproved of it.

This article is not about favouritism at the workplace in particular, but biases that companies and managers harbour for high performers, which can lead to the creation of a toxic culture.

In the name of high performance and producing results, sometimes these high performers feel they can get away with anything not realising that this can lead to conflicts within the team.

The senior leadership also tends to sometimes overlook the liberties taken by these employees blinded by the fact that they produce desirable results and output for the company.

However, it is very important for organistions and leaders to understand that these high performers may deliver great financial results in the short term, but in the long run they can cause huge much damage to the culture of the organisation. This, in turn, will adversely affect the company in monetary terms as well.

There can be many instances or cases of high performers taking undue advantage by regularly showing up late for work, running late for meetings and going on leave without prior notice to the management. Sometimes their managers ignore these actions, which only encourages the others to take the official rules and regulations for granted.

It is very important for leaders and managers to take serious note of such behavioiur, and nip it in the bud to avoid further complications, which can damage the organisation.

“One must note that most major personnel problems within organisations develop because leaders ignore a series of smaller issues along the way. You should absolutely deal with your most difficult personality types in a timely fashion and watch out for budding prima donnas, perfectionists, and unhelpful types in the making,” opines Sriharsha Achar, group CHRO, Apollo Hospitals.

HRKatha also spoke to Saba Adil, chief people & operating officer, Aegon Life Insurance who said that in their organisation discipline is something which is given utmost importance and the company does not take indiscipline of any kind lightly. “We have faced situations where a high performer has asked for extra waivers which are not laid down in the company’s policies. In the life insurance industry, where we process customers’ data, if there are some discrepancies in the processing, we do not compromise just because someone is a high performer,” shares Adil.

Saba Adil

“In the life insurance industry, where we process customers’ data, if there are some discrepancies in the processing, we do not compromise just because someone is a high performer” 

Managing high performers in an organisation is something very essential and when you see someone overstepping their boundaries, it is essential to communicate that this is unacceptable.

Aegon Life Insurance runs various awareness programmes, which make the employees aware of the areas where the company cannot compromise, and the rules remain the same for everyone.

“In our organisation, we do not tolerate behavioural issues at all. Also, if someone comes late every day or requests to be allowed to work for two or three days a week, it is unacceptable whether or not the person is a high performer,” mentions Adil.

Achar adds, “No manager should allow anyone to engage in rude, disrespectful or offensive behaviour at work and take undue advantage of the system. It will always be important for a manager to use discretion on a case-by-case basis, but managers will also need to be able to track performance and behaviour systematically. Only then can they identify potential warning signs of a toxic culture developing and address employee behaviour which is not compatible with the company’s mission.”

Sriharsha Achar

“The manager and HR lead need to stand up and face such employees head on. You may lose them. Its fine”

To tackle such situations and keep them in check, sometimes the leadership and HR lead will have to take some tough measures. Achar told HRKatha, “You aren’t marrying these employees. You just need to be able to dance with them occasionally. Every organisation has an invisible level of tolerance beyond which even the best of best, need to be shown their place when they digress, without any exception. The manager and HR lead need to stand up and face such employees head on. You may lose them. Its fine.”

Adil adds that Aegon Life Insurance does not have any separate rules for high performers as such. However, it makes sure that every employee is treated fairly without any bias towards the better performers. “We have the same rules for all. For instance, on checking the attendance regularly we make it a point to address all those who are not punctual. High performers cannot run on different rules,” shares Adil.

It gets really challenging to create a balance between managing the best talent while maintaining objectivity. For the HR it is important to strike a balance between the two.

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