What to do with a “destructive hero”

gavileWe are all familiar with the type of employee who doesn’t interact well with others and yet performs their job like a star. Some might call this person a “destructive hero” or a “brilliant jerk.” They can be demanding, rude, argumentative, annoying and so forth but, they make their numbers, generate business and help the organization prosper. Leaders are put into a tough spot in this situation. They are hesitant to fire the employee for fear of losing business, seeing a decrease in numbers and losing a great talent. But, if they ignore the situation entirely (like many leaders do) the difficult employee’s actions could bring down the morale of the entire team causing others to do their job poorly. Jack Welch, CEO of GE, has written about his experiences dealing with “jerks” in the workplace. At GE they are referred to as a “Type 4” employee or manager – a person who delivers on all of their commitments, makes the numbers, but doesn’t share the organization’s values. In 1992 Welch terminated five managers who had delivered good financial performance but did not practice the company’s values. To deal with a difficult employee you should listen closely to what is going on, begin an intervention with the offender as early as possible and provide an opportunity for attitude improvement with the assistance of a counselor or coach. If the employee is still unable to change then it’s time to terminate before they disrupt the “culture” of your organization. Ultimately, the best course of action is to ensure that you hire the right people from the start. Seek out a candidate who believes in the higher purpose of your organization. One who either adopts it quickly in the indoctrination period, or already shares the vision and values of the star performers within your organization. Before any interview with a potential employee have your current stars clearly articulate their higher purpose. Ask them to explain what drives them to be great and what their passions are within the organization. Then instruct them to brainstorm a list of all the reasons for why they love their work and have them process the list down to a short simple statement. Now, share those statements with the candidate and ask them to pick a few powerful ideas from the statement. Next, discuss those ideas and why they picked them. If the candidate doesn’t get excited about the ideas, or simply doesn’t understand you probably don’t want them in that role. However, if the person shows genuine passion and excitement about the ideas, this may be a very good person to consider hiring. If you can’t change the attitudes of the destructive hero termination may be your only option. For the future, follow my simple steps during the hiring process to avoid being stuck with another difficult employee later on. Source: Harvard Business School]]>

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