When good employee’s success becomes negative

Shy, but eager, employee lets success go to her head

Part of being a good manager is coaxing average performers to overachieve.

And generally that’s a good thing.

But with some employees, a little success can go to their heads – and create major headaches for managers.

That’s the situation Julie Lippman found herself in when the success of one of her employees turned into a departmental nightmare.

‘I’ve created a monster’

“Ken, got a few minutes?” Julie asked. “I need some friendly advice from a fellow manager.”

“Sure, fire away,” Ken said.

“Well, it’s about Katie Coltrane,” Julie said.

“Katie? I thought she was your new star employee,” Ken said.

“That’s the problem,” Julie said. “I think I’ve created a monster.”

“Ahhhhh, tell me more, Dr. Frankenstein,” Ken said.

Haunted by minor success

“Well, I guess it does have the makings of a classic horror tale,” Julie said. “She, retiring, average performer gets a shot to impress the big boss by turning a loser into a winner.”

“I remember,” Ken said. “She helped revive one of our older product lines and put it back in the black.”

“Yeah, it’s making a small profit,” Julie said. “So I did what a good manager should do, right?  I sang her praises, got her in the company newsletter and held her up as an example of what hard work can accomplish.”

“And now it’s coming back to haunt you, isn’t it?” Ken said.

Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde

“Yep!” Julie said. “Sweet, innocent Katie now has an ego the size of King Kong and treats everyone in the department like dirt. On top of that, she’s demanding an astronomical raise, which, of course, I could never give her even if I thought she deserved it.”

“Dr. Jekyll has turned into Ms. Hyde,” Julie said.

The Big Question

“I’ve talked to her a few times about her attitude, but it’s not sinking in,” said Julie. “Ken, do you have any ideas.”

“It’s hard to put toothpaste back in the tube,” Ken said. “Let me sleep on it.”

“Sure, just try not to have nightmares,” Julie said.

If you were in Julie’s situation, what would you do? One of the ideas below offered by our readers might provide you with some guidance.

Praise OK, But constructive criticism needed for balance

Even though Katie has had some success, I’m sure there are still plenty of things she can improve on. Although it’s important to sing the praises of the good stuff, it’s also important to point out where there’s need for improvement. If Julie would give constructive criticism on those areas, it will make it easier to maintain a proper equilibrium. It’s important that an employee not get the impression that everything is good. There’s always room for improvement. Just because Katie can do a stellar job with one thing doesn’t mean she’s reached star status. Regular constructive criticism will help keep Kate from becoming full of herself .

Arzill Benson, Controller Renaissance Radiology Medical Group, Pomona, CA

Good of the company comes first

I’d take Katie aside and tell her she needs to come down off her high horse. I’d let her know that we really appreciate what she had done and that I wouldn’t want to lose her. But I’d also let her know that  the kind of raise she wants is unrealistic. And I’d make sure she understood that getting along with everybody else was an important part ofthe job. She has to realize that the general good of the company is more important than her individual accomplishments.

Barbara Hamilton, Office Manager, Fox Island Electric Cooperative, Vinalhaven, ME


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