I’ve recently read (and shared) this MIT Sloan post about the notion of a “Toxic Superstar”. (My previous post on the topic is here.) Most of us do not require convincing that this scenario is a common one, or that managers ring their hands over it. However, if you are in the midst of this, you may feel frozen — and I may have to convince you to act sooner, rather than later.
Long ago, in my very first role a “toxic superstar” not only held an entire team hostage, she managed to have me eliminated for no good reason (except that she engaged in an intense competition with me). Sadly, I was unaware of this unhealthy dynamic until 4:00 PM on a given Friday afternoon. It was both shocking and devastating.
I am fully aware of the risks that must be weighed which lurk in the foreground. There is the workload. The schedule. The deadlines. There is the effect (short and longer-term) upon the customer and the fallout this may bring.
Queue the impending tsunami of drama.
Now, I will encourage you to walk away with your winnings (but at the right moment, and with a plan).
Consider the following:
- Membership. The very first thing to acknowledge is this: they are not a part of our team. They are rogue a soldier. Their goals are their own and they can be a destructive force when left to their own devices. Their presence is laden with increasing risk.
- Currency. What makes them “tick” and brings them to work — is likely not what drives the rest of your team. This essentially limits your impact upon their behavior. In many cases, you will have little influence over them.
- Consider your metrics. While the work may be moving along swimmingly, other metrics/costs are mounting. As a manager or team leader, are you willing to pay the outstanding debt, when all is said an done?
- Psychological resources. Playing to this person and allowing them “go their own way” will eventually damage trust between manager and team. Observing a rogue superstar run the show, ultimately damages psychological capital.
- Plan, plan, plan. Above all, it is important to separate the skill set, from the individual that is bringing it to the party. Offer them help to change their ways, but also start a plan to replace their competencies. You may be in the position to offer a another, committed team member a chance to shine.
Have you been in this situation? How did you proceed?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She examines the effect of Core Stability on work & work life life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program since 2012 — her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.