Berty is called by her CEO early in the morning asking her to draft a quick response to the organizers of some high-level business delegates nominated to visit Italy from her country, where her boss is also an invitee. Berty is Head of HR and has enough on her plate functionally, being head of a corporate HR team.
Berty has been a consistent performer and is excellent when it comes to communication, especially business communications. Well, it is quite nice to have someone like Berty in the team who could be the “go-to” person for any such important business communications, but what does that do to Berty?
Berty enjoys the work and is seen as a committed and involved executive who ensures an assignment is given its due importance and merit. Anything that is given to Berty will see the light of the day quickly and wouldn’t be shunted away nor hidden under the piles of work. Any new assignment whether it is to do with her function or not, it would still be passed through Berty for some reason and Berty would never say “No” to these as it interests her and she does enjoy doing that.
We see many Berty like characters in our work life. They are the performers and on the other hand, organizations do carry some baggage of non-performers or under performers. CEOs and business leaders, especially when they are weak, run to the best performers of the team when they need something to be done quickly and qualitatively and won’t even bother to say a “Thank You” at times when things are done and achieved. This mainly emanates from the comfort of having these performers around to whatever they want them to do and the confidence in leaders of not receiving a “No” for an answer. This is quite an interesting phenomenon to be pondered about as there are a number of committed performers who have been punished constantly by a downpour of tons of work for satiating someone else’s selfish needs.
Most often due to a high level of self-motivation and repeat success Berty like people get selected by superiors to do more work than her colleagues because she does a good job and is very good at it. This frequently entails extra hours of work, multitasking, etc. the punishment is that Berty gets to see the non-performers who are not doing their own job well, get rewarded by means of time off at work, higher perquisites like a higher category of car, business class travels, time off from work, leave work on time and so on. This is very common in government organizations where due to bureaucracy, it is difficult to get rid of underperformers. However, the scene is not different in some single owner run private companies.
Performers like Berty gets more and more demands pushed onto their table , just because of the confidence that the CEO has on completion of the work as per the quality expected, leaving her to stay late night at work, or carry work home whereas on the other hand you have people who don’t carry any image of performers but smooth talkers.
You might often see these non-performers coming to work at 9.15 am and spends some time on tea and coffee chat then goes missing. Perhaps must have gone to drop lunch box at their kids school etc.. And before it’s 6 pm in the evening, they have already planned the evening with family or imaginary families or have planned a golf. Off they go and still get paid and paid more at times than people like Berty.
Berty was called on another day to draft a letter to one of the business associates for financial adjustments on a lease model that the company is working on with the premises of the associate. Berty needs only an explanation of what the content should be and there she goes with a frame of mind and thoughts to put the matter in good perspective and also making it practical and diplomatic. Well, it ideally would be under the Finance function to handle matters like this where it relates to lease and lease renewal etc.
Not much said the matter is resolved by Berty and life moves on and Berty gets another set of things to do which is entirely different from her functions. A week later, Berty gets a call again asking to issue a letter of salary increment to Finance head, out of the cycle. Berty has her own objection to it as it’s not in line with the policy, however, Berty has to do it eventually as the final decision is on the CEO. Such scenes are common in any organization and here it tells me that performance is punishing and non-performance is rewarding.
Also, often we at senior levels like Berty gets to do things which we are unwilling to do and this is what I term as “being raped”.
Performers are seen as meek by some of the CEOs or leaders and it’s only a matter of time that organization would lose such performers as they see how weak their leaders are and find that there is no room for growth or learning under their leadership.
It’s important for the organization’s to reward performers timely, especially those performers who are driven by excitement at work or those who score very high on career development on tests like RSI.
Piling works for performers without being sensitive to them or without even showing a simple courtesy gesture, would be like punishing them, especially when it comes to rewards, that goes to non-performers. It is a shame that some CEOs and leaders do not take care of performers and do not keep a balance on rewarding people. The health of an organization is in danger when performers are punished and is suicidal when non-performers are rewarded.
Berty like performers does not promulgate their innate skills or abilities or their immense involvement in delivering a quality work. But there, of course, are those gas- bags who doesn’t leave a chance to advertise a small achievement and do not hesitate to even plant a loudspeaker just below the ears of their leaders. Unfortunately, CEOs who are logically diagnostic to these characters in the organization are rare.
On the other hand, you get to see performers like Berty beaming with positive energy as their motives are performance and not reward. But with time, they would move on where they get to develop their abilities and skills. They wouldn’t mind being used but they look for rewards that enable them to do well time and again. Their meekness sometimes is taken for granted by the CEOs and leaders.
Similarly, we all have our favorite team member to go to for anything that comes up as urgent or immediate to do work. Often we have a tendency to lean on them for quality, consistency and expected results. We keep developing this reliability factor on some of our direct reports and often it comes to the limelight and it sometimes takes the shape of obvious.
As a leader one needs to be careful about it, especially when we have a team. Managing the talents that are performing and non-performing is an art in itself. It sometimes is a good tool to make the reliability on someone public as long as communication is clear and transparent that performance is not seen as punishing. At the same time, a leader must encourage the nonperformers to handle responsibilities thus making it perceived as an opportunity to excel is given to them. A differentiation in rewards is imperative for a team to be successful and also for a leader to be perceived as fair, else the leader will be left with nonperformers who wouldn’t mind staying on. While performers are pressured with more and more, rewards if not delivered whether it is in financial form or in the form of word of appreciation or in the form of meeting learning and development needs, you are bound to lose your performers in time.
If an organization does not open their eyes to recognizing performers over non-performers and get into the mode of taking performers for granted, just because the motive and driver for performers are mere performance, the work culture would suck. Real performers are those who do not hanker for rewards but a silent result producers and, of course, they do have their times of agony on organization’s unfair recognitions, but the inner drive of being a performer and also the quest for doing better keeps them galloping to an extent that organization or company or brand they are in for the moment do not matter. Before you realize the importance of rewarding them, they would be gone. You cannot keep punishing performers with more and more work demands for long, neglecting the need for appreciation.
There exist organizations and CEOs who values performers and who acknowledges the punishing of performers by loads of work and the beauty of such talent masters reside in the very fact of recognizing that he is punishing the performer with more work demands and knowing when and what to do to keep them with the organization. The performers do not see it as punishment when they are timely recognized and not subjected to witness rewarding of non-performers.
Performance punishment is an easy way to burn out your good employees!
Image: courtesy google.