Your top performer doesn’t follow the rules: Now what?

Problem: One of your star employees, Hal, is peerless when it comes to handling customers, but he con­­sistently doesn’t comply with internal procedures. For example, he fails to complete paperwork or seek proper approvals when he processes orders over $1,000.

But customers love him.

On the other hand, Hal’s co-workers resent how he blithely skips steps that they must follow and they are beginning to complain of his special treatment. They are starting to follow Hal’s lead and bypass internal procedures. After all, they see he’s not penalized for ignoring the rules. If you demand Hal fall into line, you risk hurting his morale and ultimately, his performance. But if you let everyone ignore the rules, it will wreak havoc on your operation.

What would you do?

  a.  Keep letting Hal break rules, while insisting everyone else follow them. Justify your stance by pointing to Hal’s value to the company.

Performance Review D

  b.  Insist Hal follow the rules like everyone else. Tell him you cannot play favorites.

  c.  Create a cross-departmental team to examine the existing paperwork requirements. Have the team propose steps to streamline procedures and work with senior management to finalize appropriate changes. Insist that everyone, including Hal, adhere to the new rules.

Answer: “a” invites disaster. Workers will turn bitter over the inequities, and some will claim that they also deserve an exemption because they provide great customer service. “b” seems sensible, but Hal might resent your crackdown on him. You risk having him slack off. “c” offers a creative option that can raise everyone’s spirits. By assembling a team to review the current rules, you can gain collective buy-in on how to simplify paperwork or revamp policies so that everyone can focus on service delivery as the top priority. This is a good time for Hal to share his ideas.