Dealing with a star performer who’s a jerk (Toughest HR Question)

Abrasive leaders often don't know how behaviour comes across
By Sharone Bar-David
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/20/2014

Question: One of our most brilliant managers is also a little abrasive — a jerk, for lack of a better term. He does a great job and gets results, but runs roughshod over people in the process and doesn’t really care what other people think. What are some tactics for managing this type of star performer?”

Answer: Let’s call a spade a spade. The only reason this manager is free to behave in an abrasive fashion is because he is allowed, enabled and possibly even incentivized to do so. Had someone in the organization set clear boundaries and held this person accountable long ago, things would never have reached this point.

Contrary to popular myths, abrasive leaders are neither “jerks” nor evil. They are humans trying to do their best in a world they perceive as exceedingly perilous, where they believe their competence and good standing are threatened daily by people who are incapable or unmotivated, people who slow them down and prevent them from achieving their objectives. When they sense such threats, their anxiety skyrockets and with it comes the impulse to self-defend through some form of attack.