Stop Your Talented Employee Overstepping Boundaries

Employee behaviour in the workplace

Most managers give unfettered freedom to the most talented team members to do what they want.  Managers like it when people keep pushing the boundaries to do an outstanding job.  And it makes a lot of sense to unfetter their genius and chain down mediocrity.  But you don’t want any talented employee overstepping boundaries in the workplace.

Why Employee Overstepping Boundaries?

Unfortunately, managers often give a free pass to individuals to do as they wish.  This is because those people are talented and outstanding at their jobs. 

The same individuals end up developing bad behaviors and start to trample over everyone else because they feel unique from others.  

They start to consider themselves as the best assets you have and that you’ll fail without them.  And it is the reason why employees overstep your authority and begin undermining your leadership.

Inappropriate and Undermining Behaviour in the Workplace

When managers accept that individual members are more critical to the team than the others, they give them the freedom to do whatever they like.  

There is no doubt that most talented individuals can be significant assets to have within a team.  Skilled employees get the work done and usually are a source of ideas and solutions in the workplace.  

Unfortunately, some of these gifted individuals many times become nuisances to other team members and managers.  And they are usually condoned, meaning no one can touch them because they are sacred cows.  

The question is if all your staff members start to misbehave, then what will you do? 

Read also: 11 Warning Signs Your Boss Is Gaslighting You at Work

Just because some people are talented and outstanding at their job does not mean they can infringe upon others. 

It is not trade-offs where other staff members who are less capable must behave well, but the outstanding individuals do not have to.   You don’t have to poach people to get them to do their job.

It is painful but possible to ask people who think they are the best to start behaving responsibly.  What you need to know, if you notice a problem with any of your staff, talented or not, and choose not to deal with it, then the problem lies with you, not the employee. 

Related: Managing Difficult Employees and Disruptive Behaviors

It is not acceptable for a manager to do nothing when your employee thinks they are the boss.  You must not tolerate any bad behaviors that undermine your authority and make other employees feel that if some can get away with it, they too will.

Most people who do the so-called “critical jobs” are usually identified as the most valuable to managers and the company.  The problem with such categorization is, they may be talented and shining in the eyes of the manager, but complete jerks to colleagues and everyone below them.

Most talented employees who overstep boundaries bully and pick fights with others over trivial issues. 

They often meddle in decisions that have nothing to do with their work.  They resist change and don’t want to receive feedback.  

Bullying Behaviors at Work

But before you condone any belittling and bullying behaviors in the workplace, think about everyone else in the team, who can be just as talented if they are not trampled on. 

Just one arrogant, dismissive, and condescending person can create a toxic work environment and force your entire team to quit, one by one. 

Once you know the real costs (lower morale, people leaving) of condoning stubborn staff members, you can’t let them continue that way.

Related article here: Managing Sacred Cows in the Workplace

Remember, the best way to stop any undesirable behavior is by preventing it in the first place.  And the way to prevent such behavior is by making sure there are appropriate consequences.

You cannot dither about what to do with an employee whose issues affect others.  You must deal with them before they become big a problem to everyone including yourself.  

Most employees only change their inappropriate behaviors when they know that there are consequences for not doing it. So, if you do not set clear boundaries, there are no consequences and hence no need to change.

Sometimes it shocks whenever a manager avoids even giving a negative feedback to a member of staff just because the person is talented.  

Your talented employees can’t be outstanding if they keep bullying and alienating their colleagues.  Perhaps, they make it harder for others to show their talent.  Good managers take seriously any form of bullying within the team.  

They don’t hesitate to investigate, to ensure that all team members are happy within the team.  And will act decisively on the information gathered from every staff member.

Dealing with Unacceptable Behavior at Work

It does not matter whether it is hearsay or assumptions, the manager must talk to individuals’ concerns.   At least say something like, “I’m hearing something which is against our work rules, and policy.” “Is it true or not?”

Relevant: Managing the Risk of Disrespectful Employee Behavior

If they deny it is not valid, you can say, well, I cannot prove this right now, so I will continue to investigate.  I apologize, but I make it clear that this cannot be tolerated here.  Bear in mind at this stage you are not passing judgment, but looking for clarity. 

And you do not ask them to acknowledge the seriousness of the allegations, but expect to see some shock on their faces or nodding the heads.

If your employee is not receptive to negative feedback, you can make it clear that their behaviors can impact future rewards.  

You need to follow through with what you say, but whether your talented staff work smarter and harder but not as a team, they are not your best performer and should not be recognized as such.

Making Hard Decisions

Undermining employee behavior has to be stopped.  It’s irresponsible if a manager cannot make a tough decision. Especially if you fail to discipline an employee who keeps getting in misconduct acts.   

You shouldn’t coddle any staff member who keeps misbehaving.  If you’ve tried to correct them, and they are not getting it, do something else.

Very related: 21 Leadership Qualities of a Good Leader You Must Have

So as a manager, you’re responsible if your employees misbehave and do nothing about it.  It’s you who allows your staff, talented or average, to behave the way they do at work.   Because it’s your management style that influences their behaviors good or bad.

Also remember, as employees don’t want a manager overstepping boundaries – you should also not allow any employee overstepping boundaries at work.

Your desire to be needlessly loyal to specific individuals should never overtake the more critical needs of managing a team effectively.  

What do you think about employees who overstep the boundaries or are you overstepping authority at work?  Please leave your thought in the comment box below

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