Why is it your best employees can also be the most difficult?
It’s a terrible conundrum nearly every manager has to face – and kind of like a dating relationship: Those traits that wooed you at first become habits that drive everyone crazy.
“At extreme levels, our most admirable personality traits undermine us,” says Merrick Rosenberg, management expert and author of Taking Flight: Master the DISC Styles to Transform Your Career, Your Relationships … Your Life.
When virtues turn to vices, leaders can’t change them, Rosenberg says.
But you can manage them.
In his research, Rosenberg identified the most common personality virtues – the very reasons you hired, praised and possibly promoted the best employees. Unfortunately, he also found that those assets become destructive when good employees take them to the dark side.
Here are four traits you likely look for in employees that, when taken to the extreme, turn detrimental. We included tips on how to manage your best employees who’ve become difficult so they remain effective team members.
Passion becomes promotional
At first: You likely find, hire or promote people who are enthusiastic, outgoing and optimistic. Hiring managers probably get along with them off-the-bat. Co-workers and other bosses find them engaging.
Overboard: They become self-absorbed and lose sight of the actual work goals. They crave attention, overtake meetings and chat too much, distracting themselves and co-workers.
Solution: Satisfy their need for attention and have productive conversations by asking for feedback while reminding them they’re part of a team: “Hey, I really need your opinion on X. Some other team members had some good ideas and I’d like to hear yours.” Or, “We’re going ahead with X. What do you think the team goals should be to get there?”
Confidence becomes dominance
At first: Some people stand out because they’re direct, confident and results-driven. Managers might get them on a team and assign them larger responsibilities because they work well under pressure.
Overboard: Then they become bossy, even aggressive. Because they want to be in charge, they become callous and condescending – or at least are perceived to be that way.
Solution: These employees want to be respected and achieve big results. Give them lofty goals and recognize their personal accomplishments. In teams, give them specific roles and celebrate group wins, noting all individual contributions.
Peacemaker becomes martyr
At first: Every team needs peacemakers. They support co-workers and make genuine efforts to keep harmony. Managers like them because they often smooth or fix people problems before they blow up and the boss has to fix them.
Overboard: Then they start to feel sorry for themselves, doing everything for everyone. As a martyr, they often suffer quietly and become passive-aggressive, dishing out contempt instead of empathy because no one recognizes their sacrifices for the better good.
Solution: These employees need a portion of the support they give everyone else. Commend them for deeds and words that they figure no one would notice. They thrive on being recognized for the little things.
Analyst becomes unappeasable
At first: These good employees are detail-oriented, logical and reliable. They like to make sure everything is done – and that it’s done right. They’re often happy to work behind the scenes and sweat the small stuff while others put their face on the project.
Overboard: Too much time analyzing can cause them to become critical. Then they’re skeptical of others’ work, new ideas and criticism of their work. They look for faults and shoot holes in the solutions that are offered.
Solution: They’re best managed by staying ahead of their criticism. Regularly ask them, “How would you improve this?” or “What are some ways you’d add to this?” Point them toward creating solutions rather than destroying ideas.