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Blog - How to manage a badly behaved top performer...

How to manage a badly behaved top performer...

Posted by Tracy Powley 07/04/15

Conflict at WorkIn the wake of the Clarkson unacceptable behaviour saga, we thought it would be useful to revisit some pointers for dealing with a top performer who is behaving badly.

It is one of the most commonly raised issues in our management development programmes, because managers are so worried about losing the great performance if they tackle the poor behaviour. They worry revenue will walk out the door or behaviour will get worse.

But we pose one simple question in these situations... What happens if you don’t tackle it?

Once thinking about this angle it is easy to see how dangerous it can be to leave these situations unchecked...

For a start, the behaviour won’t change – just as we saw with Clarkson. The physical violence which finally saw him exit the BBC was just one incident in a string of misdemeanours. Behaviour often worsens if it is left unchallenged.

And then there is the potential “ripple” effect... How will this affect the rest of the team? Will it encourage others to try “getting away with it”? How does it reflect on the manager themselves, if they don’t deal with it?  And if it is affecting team motivation, how long before this becomes apparent to the external customers in some way?

One thing that often helps, is getting managers to define “performance”. When we manage people’s performance, we should be looking at 2 key areas...

  1. what someone does... in other words the output of the job (such as bringing in revenue and hitting targets or completing tasks to certain deadlines)
  2. how someone goes about their job... the behaviours they display in carrying out their job

A top performer who rides roughshod over team members is simply not a good performer.  A great “personality” who hits their co workers is not a good performer.

Viewing both aspects of performance as equally vital will help managers to address behavioural issues with team members when they fall short... just as they would address someone falling short of a an agreed target or missing a deadline.


Have a look at how we have helped other organisations tackle unacceptable behaviour at work or look at the range of support we can offer to address inappropriate behaviour.

Tracy Powley
Tracy Powley

The way we behave towards each other in the workplace has a direct impact on individual wellbeing, team performance and organisational results. This belief has underpinned our work at Focal Point for over 20 years and has never been more relevant. We are privileged to work with a huge variety of organisations wanting to get workplace behaviour and culture right - and to tackle the inappropriate behaviour that may get in the way of this. Supported by our fantastic team of facilitators and coaches, we are able to make a real difference to peoples’ lives as well as organisational performance. Having worked in both large businesses at management level and in 2 start ups at director level, I am able to combine hands on experience of growing and managing teams - and the associated challenges in creating the right culture - with over 20 years in learning and development. I hold the Certificate in Training Practice and am a member of CIPD. When I am not supporting clients or developing the Focal Point business, you will find me in a calming yoga class...

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