Sometimes a Bubble Just Needs to Be Burst

  • By: Tom McKeown
  • Blog
  • May 30, 2014

It’s good to have confidence in one’s self, both in who you are and what you do.  A salesman should believe he is worthy to present to a CEO, a programmer should believe his code can improve an organization, and an accountant should believe that his numbers are beyond reproach.  But where does this self confidence clash with inflated self assessment? Individuals who may think they provide more to an organization than they do can be a real challenge, particularly for their manager.

In 2007, Businessweek did a survey with 2,000 managers working at American corporations. One of the questions asked was, “Are you one of the top 10% of performers in your company?” A whopping 90% answered ”Yes”.  If that distorted delusion exists at the management level, it’s not a very big leap to believe that the employee base feels the same way.

So how do you manage an employee that has done “x”, but thinks that they have done “3x”? The first step is to ask yourself if it is an employee who you want to keep.

This Businessweek survey also concluded that individuals who most often ranked themselves as “A” players were in fact “C” players.  Citing the fact that true “A” players are constantly looking to improve themselves, and as a result, are much more self critical of their performance.

But if you determine you want to retain someone who needs a reality check, you need to act immediately on three major fronts:

1) With facts on hand, show them what they are contributing today.

2) Tactfully, and using the same data, explain why they are not quite providing what they think they are.

3) Collaborate with them to put together a plan that can take them to that next level and beyond.

Performance management is an ongoing process.  Once goals have been set, a good system allows for regular monitoring and demonstration with facts to measure how well an employee is doing.  “A” players will likely be exceeding their goals, but even when they aren’t, they’ll welcome this exposure and seek ways to correct the deficit.  “C” players will argue the facts and try to get softer goals.  Therefore, you’ll know very quickly who you want to keep and mentor and who amongst your team needs to look elsewhere. 

So when you have an employee whose ego is a little ahead of their contribution, use performance management to save them from themselves.  If they are worth your time and expense, they’ll be grateful and the company will benefit.

Blog originally published by HRsmart.

Connect with Tom

Tom McKeown was recently the CEO and Co-founder of TrenData, which was acquired by isolved HCM in 2021. He currently manages the product team and business unit for their People Analytics offering.

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