What happens if the best worker is also the most badly behaved member of the team? Photo/AFP

What happens if the best worker is also the most badly behaved member of the team? Photo/AFP

We are still on lessons from the World Cup. Today, we are on Mario Balotelli and Luiz Suarez. In Kenya, we have our own Dennis Oliech. Let me explain.

These are hugely talented strikers, capable of scoring virtually by themselves. Players of a calibre that any team would love to have.

But they can also be a gigantic headache – being in training-ground fights, throwing darts at young team players and feuding with managers, among other lunacies. Last week, Suarez actually bit another player on the shoulder – in a World Cup match!

One question, if you were a manager, would you want them on your team? What do you do with players who combine such an all-world talent with an equally all-world capacity for off-field and locker-room distractions – knowing fully well that the headaches and the goals come as a package?

Let me bring it down to business. There has been much discussion about star performers and their contribution to success of a business.

Often in teams, one member brings in more revenue, has a great relationship with an important client or achieves more than half the sales targets for the entire team.

Their high performance levels make them almost indispensable to the team and management. But what happens if the best performer is also the most badly behaved member of the team?

What if they do not work well with the team, have trouble following rules or constantly upset their peers? Do you keep the person in the team or show them the door?

This is a challenge that managers face every day. I will tell you why. It is often simple to identify low-performing employees or employees who need training or retraining. It is more difficult to address the challenge of the employee who does good work with a bad attitude.

An attitude of rudeness, malice or disrespect can be one of the most insidious threats to workplace collaboration.

Furthermore, a bad attitude can be disastrous for productivity. A manager focused on productivity may be tempted to overlook an employee’s negative attitude, especially if that employee is among the top performers.

But a bad attitude can ultimately impact the productivity of co-workers, which can denigrate the team and preclude accomplishment of team goals.

The reason poor behaviours go unchecked is because teams often do not have strong, open, professional relationships where staff feel they can challenge bad behaviour.

The stronger the professional relationship, the more staff are enabled to have the conversations that need to be had in order to underpin performance, particularly high-level performance.

Some organisations are reluctant to develop strong professional relationships because they are unsure how to go about it. But I can refer you to one person who did.

Former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, revealing the reasons behind terminating Roy Keane‘s United contract in November 2005 by paying him in full, has said that Keane’s unacceptable criticism of the club’s players forced him to take immediate measures to clear the mess that the former United captain had created within the squad.

In his new book My Autobiography, Ferguson has written: “The hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue. He has the most savage tongue you can imagine. He can debilitate the most confident person in the world in seconds with that tongue.

“What I noticed about him when I was arguing with him was that his eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads. It was frightening to watch. And I’m from Glasgow.

“A few younger players were getting affected. So we decided we had to do something…If I had let it pass, the players would have looked at me differently, much differently. I think it’s clear that I had to show I was strong enough to deal with issues like that.”

And that is how you deal with good performers with bad attitude. You bite the bullet!

Mr Waswa is the MD of Outdoors Africa.