There are strategies to deal with all kinds of employees: the ambitious, the unmotivated, the motivated, the over-sharer, the timid…the list goes on an on. In this scenario, you have two main types of employees, the ambitious and the lazy. For the sake of argument, let’s define ambitious as the type of employee who exerts him/herself every day, taking on extra responsibilities, but will keep an eye out for something better. We will define the lazy employee as the person who does the bare minimum required. S/he may not ever blip on the radar, but don’t expect anything of them.
Your life may be easier with the flies-beneath-the-radar employee, but is that the type of organization you want to have? Mediocrity is the standard in that scenario.
Your life may be complicated by the ambitious employee because s/he will ask you questions, expect mentoring, and push you to make decisions that will make your business better.
I would suggest that a major failing of our larger and more stagnant businesses is that they do not have systems in place to reward high achievers. In point of fact, it has been my experience that it is more likely to have ‘award and recognition’ programs than it is to have effective processes in place to either 1. encourage better performance or 2. discourage mediocre performance.
It is relatively easy to discourage poor performance in most companies. Perhaps based on the difficulty in identifying mediocre performers, perhaps based on the difficulty in time management (spending 90% of your time on 10% of your employees), but the mediocre seem to slip through the cracks.
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli
Regarding those ambitious, high-performers: MENTOR them. Speak to them honestly about their desires. Find meaningful projects for them to accomplish. Don’t just heap responsibilities on them that others could (and likely should) be doing. These are the value-added individuals that will make your organization thrive.
It is up to you, Leader. Decide what kind of organization you would choose to build, then hire, mentor, promote, fire, punish, as appropriate.