How to turn off your peak performers

Lately we’ve seen numerous cases of across the board decisions not to award bonuses. When profits are down this makes sense on the surface but take a closer look and it could be destroying goodwill and stifling the future performance of your high achievers.

Take for instance the senior business development manager in our recent workshop. Despite the tough business climate Tina had achieved 125% of target and was rightly feeling proud of her accomplishment. However, she was ‘rewarded’ by a blanket email out to all staff saying that nobody would be receiving their bonus this year. She also received a voice mail from her manager congratulating her on a good year which she found insulting. Like many peak performers, she doesn’t need much acknowledgement or public accolades but an in-person thank you would have been appreciated.

So what messages had inadvertently been delivered to one of the few high performers in the organisation? Why bother? Who cares? It doesn’t matter how much I put in, I’ll get penalised for the poor performance of others… and so on. Interesting then that the company’s training focus was on how to acquire new business.

Like for most sales people the money is important for Tina but personal pride is also a huge factor. She wants to be the best, strives for success and can’t conceive of missing her targets so she does the hard yards and puts in the extra effort. As you can imagine she was left feeling pretty deflated by what she saw as the company’s response to her results.

Just like with training, one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to rewards and recognition. In this case a handwritten note from the CEO, or lunch with the GM would have scored huge brownie points. Maybe a few extra days holiday or an opportunity to be mentored would work for others. Managers should know what motivates each team member and how to get the best from them.

You might think that “this wouldn’t happen in my organisation” – perhaps not, but this organisation is renowned for caring about its people. A bit of foresight and common sense could have avoided this damaging situation.

When deciding the budget priorities and what gets cut Leaders need to think twice about the impact of blanket HR policies, particularly for those at the pointy end who are chartered with growing the business.   In tough times can you really afford to turn off your peak performers?


To understand more about what makes your peak performers tick and highlight the common patterns we recommend using the powerful iWAM (inventory of Work Attitudes and Motivations) profiling tool.


Posted: Wednesday 19 September 2012

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