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GUEST COMMENT: Parachuting in a star performer could be pernicious to your team

“Hiring a star resembles an organ transplant,” observed the head of research at a distinguished Wall Street investment bank. “First, the new body can reject the prized organ that operated so well inside another body…On some occasions, the new organ hurts healthy parts of the body by demanding a disproportionate blood supply…Other parts of the body start to resent it, ache and…demand attention…or threaten to stop working. You should think very carefully before you do [a transplant] to a healthy body. You could get lucky, but success is rare.”

Most managers realize that hiring a star is likely to damage the morale of incumbents, but they tend to underestimate the magnitude of the upheaval and aftershocks.

Compensation is typically the first bone of contention. It rarely takes long for the particulars of the newcomer’s deal to make the rounds.

If senior management lavishes dramatically higher pay and more desirable resources on a newly hired star than on a company stalwart who has performed equally well, both the stalwart and other employees are likely to become more or less instantly demoralized.

Companies eager to please stars also award them other coveted resources, like support staff as part of the hiring package. Loyal employees can quickly become embittered : without comparable resources, they cannot possibly perform as well as the hired gun.

A perception of unfairness and inconsistency may spread quickly. People typically use individuals similar to themselves as points of comparison when assessing whether their rewards match their contributions and whether they are being treated fairly. If they conclude that they are underpaid and undervalued, they are apt to waste time complaining or infighting or to retaliate passively by expending less effort and withdrawing commitment. Indignant incumbents may refuse to cooperate with a resented newcomer. They may even actively seek to leave.

This is an extract from Chasing the Stars by Boris Groysberg, an associate professor of organizational behaviour at Harvard Business School.

Comments (16)

  1. When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, when you wish upon a star……. YOU ADD ANOTHER ‘0’ TO YOUR BONUS!

    I am the biggest star around. I am the star in my team. I am the star on my floor. I am the star in my division, my bank and the star in the whole damned industry. Im_so_good that I can single handedly control the whole of the Financial Markets et al with my eyes shut and my hands handcuffed to my desk!

    Beat that!

  2. @Im_So_Good – lend me a tenner then

  3. I perfer Henry to this dude

  4. Make sure to throw the key away

  5. @Im_So_Good, i hope that one day I meet you in person so i can punch you straight in the face, again and again and again, until my knuckles bleed.

    my hand hurts from punching him Reply
  6. @ my hands hurt from punching him

    I would imagine you would be able to kill him with your bare hands, since his are cuffed to the table he won’t put up much of a fight. Make a snuff video and post it up here. That would be nice. Well, not nice, but entertaining.

  7. Every board eventually gets one…some dude who starts out funny but then quickly becomes a bore. Then they delete his account…then he creates a new fake one…give it about 2 months until the d bag moves on…

    anonononononon Reply
  8. Can we ban Im_So_Good already? he’s poisoning every thread with stupidities and making efin less enjoyable. It doesnt take a genius to figure out he’s an underachieving loser aching for recognition.

  9. The author raises a very valid point in my view – something a lot senior management probably tend to mostly ignore. I have personally seen and experienced this from both sides and I feel the key terms here are “fair” and “valued”. Bringing in a star or not, people need to feel that they are getting a fair deal in their respective roles and are valued. And therefore it becomes a question of managing a team well. If people are not valued and the don’t feel fairly dealt with, hiring a star only acts as a reminder or makes the feeling worse.

    In a team of high, satisfied and motivated performers, employing a “star” can equally raise standards. It and may even challenge and motivate other team members to lift their game. As long as it is all managed well !

  10. I agree. Has anyone seen ‘School Ties’ with Brendan Fraser. Basically prodigious Jewish QB from a public school gets parachuted into prestigious prep school team. They win the big match but Matt Damon gets peeved and another guy goes mental.

  11. Violence never solves anything. Earning fat fees for easy deals does though! Now everyone stop throwing your toys out the pram and take a leaf out of my self-made handbook I give to new analysts. Throw your pitchbooks in the air like you just dont care!

    As someone famous once said, “No place in this world prides itself more on its vigilance and realism and no place considers itself more qualified to censure any flourish of rhetoric or extravagance of aspiration”

  12. All: apologies for my childish responses over the past days. The reason for this is just because I am so depressed….I am discovering that I am just not as good in my work as I thought I would be, and therefore afraid of loosing my overpaid job in the next round of lay-offs. Again apologies.

  13. @ Fake Im_So_Good: At least try to spell correctly if you are going to try mimic me. Jeeez… you are obsessed with me its rather disturbing… and disgusting. Don’t be so bitter… I’m sure one day someone will acknowledge you for something other than your failings. Chin up lad!

    FYI the correct spelling is losing*

    Im_So_Good (real) Reply
  14. Oh and I forgot to add I actually work in Settlements though I am hoping to get a job in HR. I can only apologise for being the snivelling little excuse of a human being I am. I have no friends so i Spend my time trying to be funny when in reality I know I am not

  15. *losing

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