Organizations have a way of keeping good people down. Carl Jung wrote extensively about how the behavior of a group sinks to the lowest level. That lowest level isn’t intentionally sabotaging your organization, but they are holding it back.
Organizational leaders often say that teamwork and collaboration produce the best results. This is usually true because very few companies can attract, support and retain autonomous, front line workers who are continuously creative, exploding with energy, always accountable, and fair and kind to those around them. It’s these individual Super Workers who can get so much done. If you have these great people in your organization, you’re likely at risk of losing them. If you are one, you likely left your last job out of frustration, and—sorry—that’s why you’ll probably leave your current job.
Here are 3 risks the Super Worker must deal with:
#1 many coworkers and leaders resent being held accountable
The risk: The Super Worker knows how to leverage the expertise and resources of others. Once a coworker or manager commits to doing something for the Super Worker, the Super Worker follows-up. The Super Worker expects others to deliver on their commitments. When people don’t deliver, the Super Worker finds another way to get things done. But what’s left behind? Someone who may have resented being held accountable and is now worried about failing to deliver.
Managing the risk: Support the Super Worker by giving them the extra resources they need to readjust the work or project. Next, quietly manage the performance of others, but make sure the Super Worker knows. This approach reduces the resentment that might be directed at the Super Worker, and lets Super Workers know that the organization has their back.
#2 being successful puts a bull’s-eye on your back
The risk: Research shows that we should talk about our accomplishments when interviewing for a job, but self-promotion on the job has been shown to be a barrier to promotion. It’s relationships that lead to promotion. Super Workers who are asked to talk about their own success or showcase their accomplishments may get a bull’s-eye on their back. Their success is often a threat to others. People start trying to find faults with the Super Workers to knock them down a peg or two.
Managing the risk: Praise the Super Worker, but get it right. Leaders should talk about the concrete impact a Super Worker has on the organization. Getting it right sounds like, “I’d like to acknowledge the success of Christine’s project. The redesigned customer feedback portal has reduced our complaint resolution time from an average of two-business days to 4 hours.” Getting it wrong sounds like, “Christine’s dedication and creativity made this project a success.” Leaders should avoid publicly praising the personal qualities of Super Workers. Sure, some people might still be threatened by acknowledging impacts, but they are unlikely to say bad things about results. Save the acknowledgement of personal qualities for the one-on-one meetings.
#3 other leaders may disagree with decisions and be wary of power relationships
The risk: Super Workers are often experts in their field. As a leader, you count on them to make decisions and keep you informed. However, other leaders may not agree with a Super Worker’s decisions. Leaders talk to other leaders, and before you know it, the Super Worker’s decisions are being disparaged at the highest levels. On the other hand, as Super Workers do more great work, senior leaders begin to notice them, admire them, and start relying on them. Soon, the Super Worker develops something called expert power. In a meeting, if a vice president values the opinion of the Super Worker over her department heads, then Super Worker beware!
Managing the risk: Super Workers need proactive and visible support from their leaders. It’s not enough for a leader to tell the Super Worker they have support. Leaders need to campaign for them among their peers. They need to build support for their Super Workers so that other leaders will also come to value and rely on the Super Workers, and not feel threatened.