Do you silently congratulate yourself for hiring a dream employee who makes your life so much easier? Not so fast. If you're not careful, dream employees could morph into a nightmare—whether the fault is your failure to manage them right, or their own personality traits. Here are five types of dream employees you may have on staff and how to keep Dr. Jekyll from becoming Mr. Hyde.
1. The Star
The Dream: Your Star employee can do no wrong. Again and again he saves the day, coming up with brilliant ideas at the last minute, doing the work of 10 staffers, and executing better than anyone else without breaking a sweat. How would you ever run the business without him?
The Nightmare: As with the teacher’s pet in school, you can easily fall into the habit of giving your star employee little rewards and not even be aware you’re doing it. From verbal praise to special treatment and unofficial perks like going to lunch with the boss, all these treats can go to the Star’s head. “How would she ever run the business without me?” he thinks. Suddenly, you have a Diva on your hands, making unreasonable demands, becoming unreliable and generally “acting out.”
Wake Up: Like a parent who works hard not to favor one child, keep an eye on the big picture. Are you overly reliant on the Star at the expense of other employees? Work to build a bench of employees and give others a chance to develop their skills, too. (The Star can help train them.) And while it’s hard not to gush over your Star, keep it reasonable and make sure any perks the Star gets are in line with what other employees would get for similar success.
2. The Perfectionist
The Dream: Who doesn’t want an employee who always does straight-A work? Your Perfectionist won’t let anything leave her desk until every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed. You never have to worry about shoddy work or bad service with her around.
The Nightmare: If technology companies never shipped a product until it was perfect, we’d all still be using corded phones and typewriters. Sometimes, fast and (a little) sloppy is better than slow and perfect. Perfectionist habits can escalate until they start delaying shipments, causing backlogs and disrupted workflow.
Wake Up: Perfectionism is often a mental tic that’s hard for employees to let go of. Make sure your perfectionist knows that meeting deadlines and ship dates are top priorities. You may need to lessen the person’s workload or change the job description. If the Perfectionist is causing a bottleneck, for example, figure out how to remove her from that part of the process so other employees and your customers don’t suffer.
3. The Passive Aggressive
The Dream: Like Eddie Haskell in “Leave It to Beaver,” the Passive-Aggressive employee appears polite, respectful and helpful. He is often a great spokesperson and always has the company’s best interests at heart.
The Nightmare: Passive-Aggressive employees excel at getting “in” with the boss. To your face, the Passive Aggressive is your company’s biggest supporter, but behind your back, he’s destroying it from within, backstabbing you and the other employees while inflating his own image. Passive-aggressive behaviors can include withholding information, blaming others and portraying themselves as victims, playing “mind games” and seeking sympathy.
Wake Up: Spotting Passive Aggressives is tough because they are smooth liars. To truly get to the bottom of the situation, observe what’s going on rather than just listening to words. Watch interactions between employees and look for patterns. Talk to supervisors who may be more in tune with employees’ daily interactions. Passive-aggressive behavior is hard to change, because it’s based on deep-seated issues. Instead, focus on results. Set goals for the employee, with consequences if they are not met, and call out the behavior when you notice it.
4. The Leader
The Dream: Your new manager is fantastic. She really knows her stuff, excelling at operations, management and crunching the numbers. You’ll finally feel comfortable taking a vacation now that you’ve got a Leader on board.
The Nightmare: You love your Leader’s confidence—until the day she gets a little too confident and executes a power grab, going behind your back to make a key decision or alliance without your input (or even your knowledge).
Wake Up: It’s great to give your Leader power, and she needs to be able to make decisions (even big ones) without you. But it’s important to set limits. Make it clear to the Leader and other key managers in your business what decisions require your input. Also work with your company’s attorney, accountant and bank to set parameters for who is authorized to enter into contracts on behalf of your business, make payments or withdraw funds. This may seem like overkill, but it can save your business if your Leader goes rogue.
5. The Grunt
The Dream: What did you ever do without the Grunt around? He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but boy, is he energetic. Whether it’s making cold calls to gather customer email addresses, running out to pick up your dry cleaning or updating your business’s Facebook page, the Grunt is up for anything—always with a smile and an enthusiastic “No problem!”
The Nightmare: One day, the Grunt either realizes he’s going nowhere (after all, how could you ever promote your flunky, er, right-hand man?) or burns out. Suddenly, “No problem” becomes “Problem!”
Wake Up: It’s hard to let go of someone who knows exactly how much cream to put in your morning coffee, but it’s not fair to the Grunt to keep him a Grunt forever. Talk to the Grunt about his career hopes and dreams and develop a plan for getting him there. After all, wouldn’t you rather keep him in your business than see him head to the competition? As part of his development plan, have him start now to groom a replacement Grunt—you know he’ll be great at it.
Read more articles on leadership.
Photo: Getty Images