Colleagues Threatened by High Performers
Some colleagues consistently work smarter and accomplish more than others. As high performers, they naturally get more attention and recognition from leaders.
In a world of meritocracy, such high performers would be exalted by peers, as well. After all, their hyper-productivity generates more resources for everyone else on the team.
Unfortunately, in some team cultures, high performers are more often a target for derision and ridicule from colleagues who suffer from competitive jealousy.
In workplaces where everyone feels recognized and valued, high performers set the bar and become role models for others who want to join their ranks. In teams where the competition for appreciation and respect exclusively favors high performers, envy plays out in dysfunctional ways.
When high performers receive disparaging remarks and are described as lucky rather than skilled, leaders have a massive issue on their hands.
The answer is never to underplay the focus on performance or to show less value for those team members who consistently perform at the highest level. That cowardly approach is a surefire way to push the best performers to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
Nor is the advice to limit the number of high performers on any given team a recipe for success. Heaven knows good leaders and organizations should want to recruit, develop, and retain as many high performers as they can.
The key is to understand why colleagues would feel so much jealousy that they would target high performers and treat them poorly.
At the root of all envy is the desire to have what others have. In the case of high performers, colleagues want to receive much of the same treatment, recognition, and appreciation their overachieving peers do.
Creating a culture of recognition where everyone, no matter what station or success they experience, is valued and celebrated for their work and collegiality combats the disease of jealousy. When all team members feel supported and recognized, petty jealousy fades away.
Jealousy stems from the fear of comparison. When high performers become the object of ridicule, it is likely that less skillful colleagues feel judged and undervalued for what they do.
The best leaders take the necessary steps to elevate all team members so the jealousy of high performers doesn’t gain a toehold and undermine the team’s desire to excel.
Jealousy destroys. Better we destroy it first.