Subscribe to Inc. magazine
LEAD

Dealing with a Prima Donna Employee

Call it the Randy Moss problem: How do you manage an all-star employee with an out-of-control ego? Should you even try?
The lesson to be learned from Randy Moss and the New England Patriots saga is how any business can properly deal with a prima donna.
Advertisement

When Randy Moss is on top of his game, he's one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. With exceptional speed, great hands and an innate ability to gain separation on defenders, Moss is second all-time with 152 touchdown receptions in his career. But even with his unmistakable talent, Moss has long been dragged down by his off-the-field reputation as a prima donna, a me-first guy and a troublemaker who always wants to be the star. And when he doesn't get his way, as was the case in New England and was reported by ProFootballTalk.com, he can quickly become a distraction.

The lesson to be learned from Randy Moss and the New England Patriots saga is how any business can properly deal with a prima donna. If you're the Patriots, you know that having Randy Moss on your team makes you more dangerous to competitors, but weighing the benefit of his on-field impact with his attitude and lack of concern for the team as a whole was what needed to be addressed.

In early September, Moss publicly stated his dissatisfaction with a lack of a contract extension by his employer. On Wednesday, Moss was traded from the Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings, where he started his career. The Patriots are seemingly a weaker team without Moss, but this was a change they had to make based on Moss' recent actions. Former MLB front-office executive Dan Duquette, a Boston-based business consultant, says trading Moss was the only option.

"Football is a team sport, and Moss needs the other ten guys on the field to perform for him to do his job," Duquette said from the 2010 Inbound Marketing Summit, fittingly held at Moss' former employer's home, Gillette Stadium. "So really, the player needs to be committed to the team. Most teams and successful organizations have rules and guidelines to follow, but when it comes time for a new contract, these types of players can be disruptive to the team. That was the case with Randy, and hence the divorce."

It's no different in your company. If you have a salesperson that leads your team in terms of results, but is a distraction and disruption to the rest of the team, is that prima donna good for your business? It depends on whom you ask, and what type of manager you are. Some leaders will learn to deal with the prima donna because of their productivity, and others are all about building a culture of trust and an environment where everyone works together, so eliminating that person from your organization becomes the best option.

High-performing individuals are not always easy to get rid of, however, because of the value they can provide to your company. How can you, as a manager, effectively manage the employee who puts themselves above the organization without firing them?

Often a prima donna forgets that his or her job function exists to support another job function, and in most cases their talents have inflated their ego instead of focusing on serving others. What you don't want to do is criticize this person or point out their flaws when they make a mistake, or do anything too positive to help inflate their ego even more.

"If they are really good at what they do, you should acknowledge them and their abilities," says Karen Mattonen, founder of HireCentrix, a human resources and employment recruiting agency in southern California. "But approach them quite self-assuredly and remind them that they still must maintain being part of a team."

Here are a five tips to help keep those employees' best traits and rid them of some of the selfish ones:

1.    Work With Them

 These types of employees often need additional mentoring, handling or what some might call coddling. Early on, be ready to invest the individual time and attention as a manager to build a rapport that will yield the business benefits you're looking to attain from this employee. If you've sidestepped the issue of their attitude, you have only yourself to blame — not the employee — for the frustrations or lost customers that may follow.

"Always give them feedback about their behavior, Mattonen says. "Be honest and effective, but remember you are dealing with someone who thinks they are above reproach.  You need them to be accountable for their actions at all times."

2.    Align Treatment with Performance

If the person is a top performer at your company, they likely get a level of special treatment that is giving them this inflated ego. Make sure that the treatment you give them is commensurate with his or her performance.

3.    Give Them Independence

Prima donnas, to put it quite simply, need their space. By allowing this person room to think, not only about the business but about themselves without guidance, can help them to realize they are troublesome. There are some very simple ways to do this, whether it's giving the prima donna assignments that require them to spend considerable time out of the office or away from other team members. You typically do not have to worry about their work ethic, and by isolating them, it ensures they will not cause issues for other employees on this project. If the prima donna is a bad employee, this is also a great way to figure that out. If other team members made them look better than they were actually performing in the past that will no longer be an option. As a manager, it's a great way to learn more about this person as they work independently.

4.    Figure Out Their Real Interest

If the arrogance stems from the great work they're providing for your organization, that's one thing. But if the employee is causing problems, with a clear agenda that works against your business goals, that's when you have a problem. In the situation of Moss, if he in fact was taking plays off, it impacts his team's ability to succeed, not just Moss himself.

5.    Make Them Accountable

Once you've determined there is a problem with this employee, you need to address it in some manner (though reprimanding would not be recommended). By sitting down with the employee and setting realistic goals and changes that you'd like to see made, it gives them the opportunity to go out and actually try. If you slap them on the wrist, they may just throw their hands in the air and give up, which doesn't help anyone in your company.

"There's always going to be a place for good performers, but sometimes not in the role that they'd like," Duquette says. "And the big picture here is that there is no one player that is bigger than the team in any type of organization. All employees are part of something bigger than themselves."

At the end of the day, you need to re-assert to this prima donna that you still are the boss, and will not allow their behavior.




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: