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Don’t take your best workers for granted

Stars don't always shine brightly

by on
in Office Politics,Workplace Communication

There’s nothing I hate more than a showboat. Some cockiness is fine, but I don’t like to manage hotshots who corner me to brag about their exploits. Hit me on a bad day and I’m liable to say, “Get out of my face.”

I didn’t get where I am by acting like an obnoxious press agent. While I made sure I got credit for my work, I didn’t fling myself in front of every boss like some lap dog who needed to be praised and petted for every little thing.

Want to impress a boss? Let your work do the talking. Produce undeniably impressive results. Call attention to yourself only to the extent that you have something constructive to say that’ll benefit the team; too much I-did-this and I-did-that will only alienate you from the very people you want to win over.

Reward steady performers

I make sure not to overlook the contributions of the “hidden treasures.” These are the workers who don’t play office politics. They don’t publicize themselves so much as they focus on doing their jobs better.

Pay these people well and give them your attention. They’re worth it, believe me. Take vaudeville, where the straight man’s name almost always went first and usually entitled him to 60 percent of the take. That was meant to compensate him for his lower status as a laugh-getter and to increase his loyalty. Abbott and Costello are a good example.

When I visit a sales office, I don’t spend all my time with the top producer. I also seek out the No. 4 or No. 5 people. I let these people in the shadows know that I recognize and appreciate them.

Judge for yourself

It’s tempting to let your senior managers influence how you view their employees. If a VP keeps whispering in my ear, “my supervisor, Jack, is a rising star,” I have to fight the urge to accept that as gospel without observing or getting to know Jack myself.

Some managers have a vested interest in promoting their favorites. I’m not saying these managers are doing anything wrong; I used to do the same thing and always let the CEO know about my star employee. My managers just want me to like the same people they like so that I sign off on raises and promotions without flinching.

But I prefer to draw my own conclusions through first-hand knowledge. One of my biggest challenges is finding out who’s doing the heavy lifting and who’s carrying around an inflated reputation.

Avoid one-shot chats

Quiet, steady performers aren’t always outgoing, charismatic types. They may view me with suspicion and think, “Why is the CEO bothering to talk with me?” Sometimes they lack confidence and prefer to be left alone.

That’s why I don’t just talk to them for five minutes and leave it at that. I try to drop by their desks two or three times over a few months, building trust with each visit. They soon realize that I’m trying to learn and that I’m not fooled by their louder, flashier colleagues.

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