What to Do With the Occasional Rock Star Employee

May 12, 2016

My new high-end coffee brewer drives me absolutely insane.

It brews the absolute perfect cup of java – hot nectar of the gods – about every third day. The other two result in either an average tasting cup of convenience store coffee or an evil black muck that you wouldn’t throw down your kitchen drain for fear it would eat through your pipes.

I don’t get it. I use the same beans and follow the same procedure every day, but the coffee that ends up in the pot is wildly inconsistent.

Is there any problem more perplexing than the one that is intermittent?

You know… bliss one minute; misery the next.

One day a rock star, the other…

As a manager, that perplexity is multiplied exponentially when the intermittent problem isn’t a thing but rather one of your employees. That worker who’s a rock star one day and a royal pain-in-your-neck the next.

And that can leave you scratching your head wondering if today is the day you should hand them a bonus check or a severance check.

Let’s examine the options for managing the on-again/off-again employee:

Intermittent-Employee chart

If the I.E. (intermittent employee) is a rock star most of the time and a pain to deal with only once-in-a-while, and they’re in a position that requires a hard-to-find skill set (e.g. fine copy editor, underwater welder, etc.) then it’s probably worth the occasional hassle they present to you to keep them on your payroll.

If the I.E. has a hard-to-find skill set and is a royal pain most of the time and a rock star just some of the time, getting a reasonable ROI  from them is a high-risk gamble. While you may want to consider investing some time and resources in an attempt to repair their downside, the odds of rehabilitating a talented nut-job (i.e. Johnny Manziel) are stacked against you. Don’t be fooled into believing that you possess the magic wand that can permanently correct deeply ingrained negative behaviors.

If the I.E. has a fairly common skill set (e.g. barista, limo driver) and is a rock star most of the time, then take the time and energy into trying to eliminate and/or reduce their unwanted behaviors and grow them in your organization.

It’s a ‘no-brainer’ if that I.E. has a common skill set that’s easy to replace and is a royal pain to deal with even a third of the time. You’ve got to cut ‘em loose immediately before they spread their virus throughout your culture.

ON POINT – Every employee can experience an off day now and then. But when a manager begins to notice an erratic and unpredictable pattern of unacceptable behavior that impedes performance and poisons the workplace atmosphere, it’s a signal to take quick and decisive