A Beginners Guide to Sabotaging Superior Employee Performance

Employee EvaluationThe title of this article is deliberately snarky but it is intended to get you to think about how you treat the best employees in your organization and not just the mediocre ones. With that thought
in mind, let's start at the beginning...
It may be stating the obvious but the best companies succeed when their employees succeed and not necessarily the other way around. It is truly amazing how often senior managers and business owners overlook this simple fact. Instead of rewarding overachievers, they look to limit the
effect of their bonuses on the bottom line.
This self-serving mindset is the first step in sabotaging superior employee performance. If you
are interested in continuing along this path, here are just a few of the most effective ways to accomplish this goal:
Change the Metrics at the Last Minute - Nothing is more demoralizing as a “commissioned” employee than to get within striking distance of a goal and then realize it was actually a moving target. Senior managers must resist the urge to “massage” commission schedules after the fact to meet their own bonus goals. In short, determine the targets and then live with the results.
Limit the Number of “Excellent” Evaluations – Huh? Don't we want all employees to exceed expectations? Not in some companies who expressly tell their managers that only a certain number of “excellent” reviews will be tolerated. The business world is not high school where the idea of “the curve” is accepted. Rate your people on their performance and not on some external need to meet budget.
Place a Cap on the Bonuses – Capping the bonus plan is like capping your business expansion. Imagine an employee – think someone like H. Ross Perot – who meets their yearly quota in the first month. Do you really think they will be motivated by their meager salary for the rest of the year? And, don't even think about firing them as your competition will sweep them up faster than you can say “non-disclosure agreement.” Instead, understand your margins and build your bonus plans metrics around them.
Do Not Appreciate Initiative – I once had a subordinate who tried to call me with what he thought was a dilemma. A client came in who needed to use a piece of our equipment off-site and needed an answer right away. Unable to get hold of me, the employee made a call “outside the box”, satisfied the client and made the company some money in addition. Instead of rewarding this behavior, senior management asked the “loss prevention” department to launch an investigation. Instead of kudos, this employee was formally reprimanded.  See if he ever makes that “mistake” again.
Derail Opportunities for Advancement – Everyone gets comfortable when they have turned their department into a well-oiled machine. Still, you must plan for the day when one of your “cogs” wants to move up in the world. The answer is not – as some managers would have you believe – to ruin a subordinates chance for advancement but to have a bench of other, equally ambitious people in the wings.
A Final Note
As you can see, sabotaging superior performance is not particularly difficult. Just think of ignoring the basics of common decency, run your department solely by the numbers and, most importantly, always think of yourself and your ambitions first. Good luck getting ahead. You are certainly going to need it.

To read about the opposite scenario, check out Handling Lazy Employees Effectively...