When Top Performers Behave Badly

Posted October 2, 2018 in Latest News & Insights, Member Spotlight

It’s a challenging situation to have a team member who produces great results but behaves badly with others. As leaders, we love top performers, but in today’s world of work, results are about the performance of the whole team. And, if you have someone whose behaviour disrupts the performance of others, it is something that needs to be dealt with, even if they are top performers.

We asked some of our Roundtable Mentors for their thoughts on dealing with this situation. Here are some insights from Gabriella O’Rourke, National Director of Practice Management for the Commercial Litigation Group for Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG), Tony Gareri, CEO of Roma Moulding, and Shana McEachren, executive coach and organizational development consultant.


  • Hire and fire to organizational values. Mentoring and training intrinsic values is far more difficult than training someone to learn a skill.
  • Consider whether an individual demonstrating bad behaviour with others is aligned with your organizational values.
  • Consider how this impacts other team members. People perform at their best when they have a work environment that does not require them to tolerate abrasive behaviour.
  • Consider how this situation reflects on you as a leader. Your behaviours and actions (or inaction) speak volumes about what you are willing to tolerate and what you see as acceptable behaviour in the workplace.
  • Remember that other team members are watching to see how you deal with undesirable behaviour. If you let it pass by unchecked, they wonder why they should bother behaving well. Before you know it, you may have a host of undesirable behaviours that are not being managed effectively.
  • Deliver feedback effectively and provide clear performance expectations, including how the desired adapted performance will be measured, and consequences for not responding to the feedback provided. Ask for help with this if needed.
  • Offer some coaching and/or mentoring. Everyone deserves a chance, if the desire is there to work at it.
  • Speak to your boss about how challenging you find this dilemma. They will understand and appreciate the difficulty of prioritizing teamwork and culture over individual performance. They may provide you with some mentorship and support to reinforce the organization’s values.
  • If an unacceptable behaviour persists and corrective action techniques have been exhausted, it is time to ask that individual to find another workplace. Condoning bad behaviour is a prime example of an action that enables people to believe that being a high performer absolves them of being held accountable for their actions.
  • Focus on long-term success instead of immediate reward. Poor behaviour has a ripple effect that will ultimately have a lasting negative impact on one of the most important elements of your business – its culture.

How we deal with these situations will say a lot about us as leaders – to our team members, our peers and our boss. Handled well, we will be well respected as leaders and the performance of others will flourish as they are freed from the negative impact of a badly behaved team member.

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