How do you sack your star but keep your shine...?

I wonder if the Glazer family are humming that little tune after the 'mutual agreement' that one of the greatest players of all time leaves the club? Perhaps the stress of finding new owners has silenced the song in them! At least they have saved £15.5 million in his wages for the remainder of his contract.

For 'normal employers' it does beg the question; what do you do when a top-performing employee behaves badly? Do you ignore their transgressions and misdemeanours as you are dependent on their output/work and so further ignore the ramifications of their behaviours or, do you address it mindful of the threat they might leave and work for a competitor?

Here are some tips for these situations:

  • Be wary of a 'star performer' culture; it is good to reward staff for work done well but not when it becomes about just one individual and their role in the team/office/group. They can become untouchable, considered indispensable and behaviours then go unchecked. This will be noted by other employees and cause resentment when they see others being disciplined for similar behaviours. 
  • That behaviour could be a number of things; with Ronaldo, he had agreed to the interview with Piers Morgan without the club's permission and his comments had bought the club into disrepute. This was in breach of club rules. He had also refused to get off the bench during a game so had failed to follow a reasonable management instruction. Whilst it's unlikely your employees will get a slot with Piers Morgan, what do your policies say about employees making less than positive comments about work on their social media when it's obvious where they work? Make sure your policies outline what behaviours are unacceptable even when they are not directly work-related.
  • Conversely, do not 'make an example of them'; make sure you are clear that their behaviour meets the threshold which triggers disciplinary action and why and that you respond fairly and in accordance with your disciplinary procedure. 
  • Sometimes a 'star performer' may have a bad attitude but does that warrant disciplinary action? Not necessarily but it does need monitoring and mentioning to the employees. If it continues and escalates it is likely that it will result in behaviour that warrants disciplinary action i.e failure to follow reasonable instructions. We would advise a bad attitude is not ignored but addressed early providing practical examples of the effect such an attitude has on those around the member of staff and the wider organisation and potentially its clients and what could be done to remedy it.
  • If that star employee does leave, ensure you invest in the team left behind; a big gap will be left and those that remain may need help in rebuilding and encouragement that the gap can be filled. Obviously, this is good for team dynamics, employee well-being and performance but may also discourage more staff from leaving and following their ex-colleague. 
  • Ronaldo has left and we understand is free to join any other rival club. If a parting of the ways with an employee is inevitable, you may want to think more carefully about any restrictions that are in their contract and how to ensure they remain in place. Or you may want to consider whether a settlement agreement is required to minimise the risk of further claims. This may also help with keeping the details of the departure confidential and so preventing the ex-employee from spreading rumours and stirring up ill will against their ex-employer. 

If you are looking to sack your star but keep your shine then do contact any member of our team for specific advice.