The TOO Valuable Employee

Posted by Lee Yarborough on 8/24/16 5:06 PM
Lee Yarborough
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Posted on: August 24, 2016

Most companies have at least one. The employee who drives the team crazy by complaining and adding drama to the workplace, yet their work is so valuable that everyone puts up with it. They push boundaries and often lack proper respect of peers and managers, yet everyone deals with it because the employee is a tremendous producer.

Can an employee be TOO valuable?

  • Do you ever excuse bad behavior by saying, “Oh, that’s just John, he can be like that”?
  • Do you ever tiptoe around an employee so you don’t make her mad?
  • Do other employees recognize that one employee gets preferential treatment?
  • Have you ever adjusted a job description to fit one person instead of hiring a person to fit the job description?
  • Do you ever feel trapped because one employee in your organization has the most knowledge and you worry what will happen if he quits, goes on vacation, or gets sick?

In business, you need many valuable employees, but you never want any one person to be too valuable. Life happens and people go on vacation, get sick, or decide to look at new opportunities. Business can’t be compromised because one person is out.

Yet, at one time or another, most companies are guilty of having an employee who is too valuable. The salesperson who brings in the biggest deals yet treats the team with disrespect. The operations guru who is mean to co-workers but can handle complex client issues. The employees who have deep institutional knowledge of your company or strategic client relationship, but poor team cooperation.

An employee who is treated differently or who has become too valuable can demoralize the rest of the team. Plus, as the business owner, you feel trapped. Steps must be taken in order to change the dynamic.

Begin changing the dynamic today — Here's how:

  • Continually cross-train. In small business, this is vital, but often overlooked due to time and resources. Team members must be cross-trained to cover any absences and keep business operating properly.
  • Document bad behavior & meet with the employee to provide productive feedback. The employee may not know how their behavior is effecting the team. Sometimes people need to be reminded of the rules of the workplace. Don’t wait until an annual review, feedback should be clear and frequent. Read more about effective performance reviews here
  • Monitor employee morale. If one employee causes too much trouble, other employees may become disgruntled or worse, may quit. Don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch. 
  • Be prepared to make the difficult decision to terminate the relationship (if necessary). Hopefully, good communication and proper management can turn the situation around, but always be prepared for the worst and shore up any business shortcomings ahead of time. Read more on terminating employees here
Everyone on your business team should provide value every day, but beware when you allow one employee to become too valuable. Plan strategically to avoid this happening and remember that the value of your organization is in the whole team, not just the individual players.

Topics: Leadership, Employee Management

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