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What A Star What A Jerk Essay

2344 words - 10 pages

Sometimes an employee can be nasty, bullying, or simply hardhearted. What should you do, though, when that person also happens to be a top performer?

HBR

CASE

STUDY

What a Star-What a

Jerk
by Sarah Cliffe

From:Jane Epstein To: Rick Lazarus Sent 5/74/01 Subject settling in

Hi Rick. I'm starting to get settled in at TectmiCo-I miss you and the rest of the gang, and the adrenaline of working with clients when I'm *on,* but I'm thrilled not to be living in airports anymore. Hope Mary and the kids are well. I've inherited a good team here. They're all strong performers, and most of them are nice, too. I'm sure they're still wondering about me-but so far, so good. Partial ...view middle of the document...

Here's a little incident. My AA,Maureen, flubbed a meeting time-scheduled over something else-and he really lit into her. Not the end of the world-she had made a mistake, and he had to rearrange an appointment-but he could have gotten the point across more tactfully. And she is *my* AA. (And I am *his* boss, and he did it in front ofme.)-Jane
Sent 5//5/01 Subject don't be a softie

J- The guy doesn't necessarily sound like a problem to me. I hate it when people screw up scheduling, and you've always been too patient with that kind of thing. Clearly you have to establish your own authority with him, though, or he'll step all over you. What's the place like in general? Are the folks there patient with incompetence? Or is it crisp and cruel, like here? i) By the by, Mary sends her love.-R
Sent 5/16/01 Subject: tougher than you think

Speaking of honor (not), here's another anecdote in the the continuing "Who is Andy Zimmerman" saga. Yesterday we were doing some strategizing ~s a group. (We need to be more aggressive about growth, and this was a pretty open-ended meeting to think about new markets.) Jack (the intense, possibly shy one that I haven't figured out yet) was going on a bit too long about a pet idea of his. I was about to redirect the conversation when Andy cut him off: "What you're proposing makes no sense, and here's Why."Then he laid out all the flaws in poor Jack's thinking, one by one-really made him squirm. The thing is, he was right. On the other hand, it was a preliminary, semibrainstorming kind of meeting, so his tirade stopped the free flow of ideas in its tracks. Later, I heard him *reaming* out the group's other AA, Danielle: "This is an important customer. He's called three times-WHY CAN'T YOU GET IT RIGHT!?!?" Once again, he was right. But that kind of tongue-lashing *causes* people to make mistakes.-Jane
Sent 5/22/01 Subject: bottom line?

Ignoring his niceness quotient for a moment, how's the guy's perfonnance?-Rick
Sent 5/22/01 Subject re: bottom line?

Funny you should ask. It's hardly crisp and cruel. In fact, it's probably a little too niceynice. Support staffs not up to the same standards (not paid as well, either). And there's a little more coasting among professional staff here. (Culling out the bottom 20% of performers every year sure keeps people on their toes!) Senior managers talk a lot about lack of hierarchy, which seems to translate into tolerating barely average performance if the people are well liked. (Then again, this could be all wrong: I'm describing a place I've only been part of for a few weeks.)-Jane
Sent 5/22/01 Subject: FW: good for a laugh ...

I don't think he'd have gotten away with his nastiness for so long if his performance weren't topflight. As another group leader said to me over coffee, "The guy won't win any personality contests, but you'll love his numbers." He brings home the bacon: He's smart, efficient-the best we've got (in terms of pure performance). I'd have to be...

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