Monday, 30 June 2014

The strange problem of an efficient team member

My friend was in a fix. 

"I am facing a strange problem .  I have a person in my team who is very efficient.  If he is available in the shift , I do not have to worry at all . I know everything will be done perfectly and the delivery quality will be good with no complaints at all" . 

"Go ahead ", I said " I don't see any problem at all !"

"Well, the problem is that he takes advantage of his efficiency ". 

"What do you mean ?"

"For example, if the shift duty is from 7 am to 3 pm and he comes at 8 am , he does not stay back to make up for the lost time. If I ask him to do so, he says that he is more productive than the others in the team . Again there are times when he  flaunts himself and says that since he is more efficient, he should get some extra compensation for that"

"Hmm ... " 

"Though the rest of the team does not say anything, but I feel that hostility is building up and they feel that I am being partial to that person.  Since he is so good, I don't want to admonish him or be very severe with him ,since I know that I need him for the success of my operations ...  What should I do ? "

This is not a very uncommon situation at work.  Sometimes, managers are almost exploited and held at ransom.   

So what should he do ?  

My take on this ... 

  •  It is a very dangerous situation for an organization if we become people dependent. Our processes should be so strong that the delivery quality is predictable and standardized under any constraints. I know that putting a system in place is time consuming and many organizations do not want to invest in this, but ultimately, this becomes the main differentiator between successful and unsuccessful companies.  This is one of the main Mantra for growth and stability.

  • If the manager tolerates the behaviour described above, it means that s/he is compromising with the sense of equity and justice of his or her team. Two things become evident to the team. First,  the confidence and integrity of the manager becomes blurred and secondly the simmering feeling of  unfairness might eventually turn into an imbroglio.  No project can be successful if there is lack of tuning in the team members. So, the manager should first give the priority to the harmony in his team. 

  • The manager should not tolerate indiscipline but should also give reward for efficiency and productivity . This can be done in various ways like appreciation letters,  monetary rewards etc.  Again, the reward should not be too easy to achieve.  This way the excellent performer will be rewarded . This will also motivate others  in the team to perform better. 

  • Trainings should be an integral part of  work.   This will ensure that  the average performance of the team improves .  Trainings also boosts the morale of the people and they feel that the company cares for their growth.  Hands on trainings, mentoring, induction trainings should be planned carefully and implemented religiously. 

Personally, I always prefer to have a person in my team who is hardworking, sincere, takes initiative and ownership. If  I have to choose between a genius with an attitude problem and an average performer with  lots of initiative, enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, I will promptly choose the latter.  

Equity, fairness, integrity and strength of character are  values which should never be compromised with.

Not even for a few shifts of  perfectly smooth operations.

Friends, what are your views ?


  1. Great Post Ananya Jee.
    Really Great

  2. So why was your team-member late?

  3. Ananya, you are so right in also the points raised.... Follow your instinct as the good leader you are and don't let just a team member for better than he is to destroy the dinamics of your team. All the best Ana

  4. Set your outcomes from the project or the entire work. Then ensure the following about this team member
    a) is completing his allocated tasks within the regular # of days for status reporting granularity
    b) able to get along with the relevant team members as required for getting work done
    c) treats others with respect (not deference as fit for Gods)

    If any of the above three outcomes are not being met, you both need to have a sit down and set expectations as per above.

    If the above three are being met, then you have to question why this member needs to fit the mould that either you or the organization has built in your minds. Unless you are in a process industry which could be completely automated (like car manufacturing), you need to encourage people for achieving short, medium and long term outcomes and depending on processes only is belittling the human contribution. Assuming that yours is one, the most innovative organizations actually encourage employees who meet the above outcomes because they think and work out-of-the-box. You could actually use the ability to meet outcomes as a rallying point for other team members who fit the organizational mould but do not meet the outcomes.

    Irrespective of the above, the flaunting in front of team members must be addressed by letting the team member know that this particular aspect of their behaviour is not good for team morale.

    Here's a parting quote for you that the best managers say to their teams “I will be fair to you all and so I will treat each of you differently based on what you bring to the table."

    1. Abhay, Thanks for your comprehensive remarks.

  5. I fully agree with you Ananya. But imagine the situation where you know there is a resource crunch in the organization and there are a series of time-stringent projects going on, do we as managers really have time to ignore the so-called "best but snob" resource and crib for a org-level quality awareness program. In this scenario if you ask for my opinion, I would be virtually promoting that resource as a leader of the small group and then assign him to get the total work delivered with his expected level of quality. If he succeeds, you win as you have a second level of leadership under you. If he fails, then also you will be in a advantageous position to give him a chance to rectify his defects. Yes, of course you have to monitor and mentor the execution.

    1. Dipankar, I agree with your points. But personally, I would never tolerate indiscipline over efficiency. Yes, I would have tried making him the leader as you have suggested. Sometimes more responsibility make one more disciplined and ownership driven.

  6. Outcome based management is better then time based management. If you are happy with the outcome, it doesn't matter how much time it took. When the job allows it, outcome based management is better then time based management and any organization should strive towards that.