It is a cultural fact that here in the Caribbean, we don’t like to talk about our achievements.
In polite society, it is seen as rude, and many a parent would box the ears of a child who sought to blow his own horn. Many times this comes into conflict with the capitalist world of business, where individual achievement is an important element to advancement in your career.
The other problem we have in the Caribbean is Performance Management. If you are going to hold out for the organisation to recognise your talent, you may have a long wait ahead of you. Chances are, the office smooth-talker, who is able to leverage relationships and covet the works of others as his/her own will get the promotion and raise before you do. And if you are that guy or gal- shame on you. But what else is there to do, when ways of measuring performance are still so subjective?
One thing remains true for top performers though, no matter where in the world they exist. They are a top target. Those who excel at work are constantly on the radar, have to continuously perform at a high level to battle off competition from others, and are sometimes the subject of sabotage.
Top performers are a target. And now there is research that supports that point. Sometimes the pins and needles come from the boss. Why? Human nature. As much as we love to see the good guy win, it helps if we are that good guy. When it’s the neighbour- not so much. It is the subject of many a TV drama. Scandal, anyone?
The better you get at your job, the greater the challenges you will face. This is because in all organisations there is an inherent contradiction- we are quick to celebrate individual achievement in an environment where teams and groups of people work together- and don’t always get along. This is especially true where the company culture is competitive and under constant threat from rivals.
So how do we solve this problem? We don’t. We manage it.
Top Performers can only be managed by a well documented and objective Performance Management System that tracks the performance of all employees by objectives, competency and learning and growth. And even then there will be difficulties. Because no man is an island, and no top performer can excel without the help of others. But most Performance Management systems are built on rewarding individual performance. Even in huge, multi-national organisations this is a problem.
As a top performer, you will be a target. Suck it up, buttercup. Get used to it. Your success in your role, therefore, depends on how best you navigate it. It can be the wind in your sails or a millstone around your neck.
Simply put, competition breeds jealousy and envy. If the organisation does not punish these behaviours, they will flourish. And sometimes it is encouraged. Some managers and CEOs see a little backstabbing as healthy competition. And some personality types thrive in that environment. They are generally called Narcissists. And if you have ever worked with one, you’ll know how much fun that is.
This is also the reason why former Top Performers fade. Sometimes you lose when you play by the official rules, so why keep up the fight? Answer- you have to. It is a personal integrity issue. Or get out when you can.
So here is the challenge for HR- get your Top Performers to continue performing at a high level, whilst supporting the work of others… and rewarding everybody as necessary.
The worst thing you can do to an organisation is alienate a top performer- your competition will thank you. And in my case, you may eventually become the competition.
I document my process for this Performance Management System in my second book- ‘The HR Genie’, available on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle). If you are new to the area or looking for some pointers, check it out.