Jason Lauritsen - Crushing talent dogma to free human potential

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If Charlie Sheen can be Replaced, So can You.

Over my years in HR, a common phenomena that to encounter in the workplace is a type of employee I’ll call the “Rock Star Jackass.”  You know the type.  This is the employee that can produce tremendous tangible results (sales, work product, etc.), far better than their peers.  They are rock stars when it comes to results.  But, they have a dark side.  They are difficult to work with.  They don’t follow rules.  They are borderline (if not blatantly) insubordinate.  And,  nobody really likes them (except maybe their customers).  They behave like a jackass.

I’m sure you recognize the type.  The best pop culture example we’ve had in recent time is Charlie Sheen.  From what was reported in the news over the years about Mr. Sheen, I think it’s safe to say that he is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about.  
Rock Star Jackasses are difficult to handle in the workplace.  I’ve coached many managers throughout the years who struggled mightily with this type of person.  It’s a double edged sword.  On the one hand, managers are held accountable primarily for the results of their team.  So, when a single person is responsible for generating a large chunk of those results, it’s tempting to just avoid the issues to not derail the gravy train.  But, on the other hand, these employees are generally terrorizing their manager and fellow employees.  They take an enormous toll on morale and productivity.  So, what do you do?  
Apparently, you fire them.  
I was delighted to find a news article recently that reports that the CBS show Two and a Half Men, from which Charlie Sheen was fired and replace by Ashton Kucher earlier this year, is experiencing tremendous ratings growth over last year when Sheen was still on the show.   

Ten months after “Two and a Half Men” looked destined for cancellation, TV’s top rated sitcom is the biggest ratings gainer of the new fall season. 

The show has far exceeded . . . expectations — and also those of Sheen. Soon after Ashton Kutcher was named as his replacement, Sheen predicted in May that the show would average a mere 2.0 rating among 18-to-49-year-olds.  

“Enjoy the show, America,” he told TMZ. “Enjoy seeing a 2.0 in the demo every Monday, WB.”

Try three times that. The show is averaging a 6.4 rating, far better than the 4.6 it earned last year with Sheen in the lead. It has averaged 17.8 million total viewers.

This is a great reminder that no one is indispensable.  No matter how great an individual’s performance might be or how large of a percentage of your team’s performance they make up, they are not irreplaceable.  Performance is about more than just the numbers.  If an employee creates drama in the workplace and tears others down, then their emotional expense on the organization is likely cancelling out the value of their tangible performance.  The move valuable employees are those who deliver great tangible performance at very low emotional expense.  They are good corporate citizens, they help others succeed and they don’t contribute any drama.  
So, remember, don’t let an employee hold you hostage because they have high performance.  If Charlie Sheen can be replaced, anyone can.  
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  1. Marci Reynolds

    Jason.. love the commentary and "Rock Star Jackass" is a lovely term! LOL

    Some leaders do not take the time to get past the "what" to see "the how" and that these RSJs are creating work, pain and frustration for others- negatively impacting their productivity. In the big picture, they are hurting results, not helping results.

    Marci Reynolds
    http://theoperationsblog.com/

  2. Jason Lauritsen

    Absolutely right, Marci. I've seen a few situations that support your point. In these cases, once the Rock Star Jackass was fired or sent packing, the rest of the team stepped up and the collective increase in productively actually erased the lost results from the RSJ. It's a hard decision to stare down as a manager. But, anyone I've worked with who has ever done it has not regrets after the fact. They usually just say that they wish they'd done it sooner.

Jason Lauritsen