Trumpet Player

Performance Management: Not Everybody's a Superstar

It’s time to take off the type-A blinders and get some perspective; not everybody in the workplace is a superstar or future leader, and a lot of people don’t want to be. They want to work, to get things done, to keep things moving and to do a good job of it. They don’t have huge egos or need constant attention, validation, public praise or a corner office. But just because they aren’t tooting their own horns every time they do a good job doesn’t mean they aren’t as valuable to an organization as any recognized hi-po or future leader. Little People

How organizations value people and their contributions can be a source of toxicity and a serious team killer if not managed well. And i4cp’s recent study on performance management shows that, more often than not, it’s not managed well. High-performing organizations take the time to do it better, but even among that group less than half (47%) agreed that their performance management processes promoted the desire behaviors to a high or very high extent, and only 42% considered their processes efficient. More telling is that, overall, even fewer employees find the performance management processes to be fair (38%) or valuable (27%), numbers that climb to only 49% and 42% respectively among higher performers.

If you’ve spent any time in the workforce, you know that it’s not uncommon for workgroups to be demoralized by a culture that promotes an "either you’re a star or your dead weight" mentality. Instead of acknowledging reliable workers as the core of a company, these people are treated like “low-potentials” for not constantly seeking advancement and attention. But consider how many times you would have paid more for one good follower than ten wanna-be leaders stumbling over each other to take charge and do it their way. Followers are there to focus on the work at hand and get it done, arguably qualities and skills unto themselves.

I’m not saying that high-potential recognition and leadership development aren’t important, or that these people don’t need a lions-share to stay motivated. And it’s not about making everybody a winner or not addressing low performance. But consider that a lot of talent and initiative is buried out there, with the only missing skill being the art of self-promotion in the void of substandard performance management. With the sad state of most performance management programs, it’s no wonder that engagement is dropping while voluntary attrition is rising. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate priorities in pay-for-performance and work on developing teams rather than focusing the spotlight solely on the stars.

Every superstar needs a manager, a stage crew, a stylist, security, personal assistants and a cadre of other hard-working people doing what they do best to ensure their success. Think of some of the award show acceptance speeches you’ve seen, specifically, the list of names you’ve never heard before being read off a scrap of paper held by a gushing star – the “little people” that made it all possible.

I’d like to know your thoughts.

Eric Davis
Eric received his master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Marshall University in 1996. He has had 20+ years of workforce experience in a variety of fields. Before coming to i4cp, he worked as a laboratory technician for DuPont, a conference planner for Marshall University, the public relations manager for the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Technical Manufacturing, and a graphic designer for COX Communications.