What To Do When Your Star Employee Turns Into Charlie Sheen

by | Mar 9, 2011 | Blog, Performance Management

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or info@integrityhr.com

“I’m tired of pretending I’m not special.”

“It might be lonely up here, but I sure like the view.”

“You gotta have a plan.  Every plan I have is the best plan in the room.”

“He (my boss) is a stupid stupid little man …. that I’d never want to be like.  And that’s me being polite.”

“I have spent I think close to the last decade effortlessly and magically converting your tin cans into pure gold.”

“I’m underpaid right now.”

“Everyone thinks I should be begging for my job … and I’m just going to forewarn them that it’s everyone else who’s going to be begging me for their job.”

“I have tiger’s blood and Adonis DNA.”

What do these all of these quotes above have in common?  All were recently stated by actor Charlie Sheen during his recent tailspin into media madness in the past several weeks.

How in the world does Charlie Sheen relate to Human Resources?

Well, all of these statements are also disturbingly similar to things employees have said to me when confronted with their unacceptable behavior in the workplace.  (Okay, all except the last one about the tiger’s blood. That would be a bit of a coincidence. Although I did once have an employee tell me that he was bound by no laws established in this galaxy.)

First, let me preface this article by stating that I’m a big fan of Charlie’s work – not of his personal lifestyle decisions that, unfortunately, I have become much too privy of in recent weeks.  I like his work.

I don’t like what he does in his personal life. Now his attitude, decisions and behavior is affecting his work, which I really don’t like because now his TV show will either 1.) be cancelled or, 2.) try to go on without him for a while and then most likely be cancelled.

One and a Half Men? I mean you can try, but sorry, it just won’t work.

As of this writing, Charlie has actually been fired by the network for his behavior.  They were able to keep him on much longer than a normal business would because of two things only

1.) His behavior brought on media attention and publicity to the show, which was a good thing, until he got too out of control, and

2.) He really wasn’t a liability to the network.  His antics weren’t likely to get the network sued; that is, until he got too out of control (and began appearing on interviews and telling people it was okay to do crack socially if they could handle it.)

So why did they keep him as long as they did?

Does this sound familiar at all?

Too Much Special Treatment Can Spoil Top Performers

They kept Charlie for the same reason all employers keep troubled employees as long as they do.

He was great at his job!

If you took away all paparazzi and TMZ and Twitter and any way for the public to know about Charlie’s personal life and just watched the show, you’d never know there was any sort of trouble at all. (Except maybe for the fact that he was starting to look a little haggard – but his character did swill scotch from breakfast till bedtime.)

Despite all of his personal decisions, he was performing at 110% and bringing in the ratings, doing exactly what he was supposed to do from a task set.

However, there’s more to a job than just function.

There’s also form. How employees go about doing their jobs from day to day matters as much as what they do when they do it. Charlie brought in the ratings but he also brought in far too much drama, something many employers can probably very easily relate to.

Unfortunately, this often happens with employees we label as our “best”.  We as management create the problem by putting them up on a pedestal because they do such fantastic work. Unfortunately, they then develop the attitude that they can do no wrong, no matter how much dust they stir up.

They may be a superstar sales person who alienates all the other account managers and refuses to work with others.  There may be an office manager who is top notch at organization and keeping everything just so but who won’t listen to anyone else’s suggestions. They may be a veteran employee who knows all of the ins and outs of the company, but just doesn’t get along with anyone.

It can happen to anyone in any position at any time.

So, How Do We Bring the Charlie Sheen’s of Our Offices Back Down to Earth?

It’s a delicate balance of recognizing the importance of their contributions while at the same time affirming to them that they are part of a larger organization that has to function smoothly.

More than likely, somewhere along the line, the reporting structure has collapsed and they are no longer accountable to anyone regardless of what the organizational chart says, so it would be important to re-establish the relationship the employee has with his or her manager and to develop some regular reporting schedules for accountability.

Often these employees will assume manager-like authority relationships with other employees when none actually exist, so these will need to be dispelled. This is often most effectively done by beginning regular staff meetings held by the real department manager in which it is clear who is in charge and who else is on an even playing field.

Depending upon the extremity of the situation, you want to get a reign on the employee – it may need to be a short leash with a full performance improvement plan if they’ve gone too far out of control.

Remember, performance is more than just the task management – it’s how they do what they do.

It really is a shame about Charlie. He is an incredible talent. But maybe his meltdown was for the greater good of organizations across the world. Everything happens for a reason, so let’s all learn a lesson from this.

Don’t let what happened to Charlie happen to one of your good employees – help them help themselves before it’s too late.

If you need help, Integrity HR will be there to listen.

Article written by Paula Agee, SPHR

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