Why Star Players Make Bad Managers

When an employee performs extremely well, earning plenty for your company, it may be tempting to promote them to manager. After all, they might encourage others to succeed, right? However, a recent study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that maybe you shouldn’t.

A Bad Boss in the Making

In order to move up the pay ladder in most companies, generally a person must be promoted to management positions. And the role of manager seems like the perfect reward for that one great employee. It comes with higher pay, greater responsibility to help that person grow, and more perks. And, some employers may hope, one high-flying team member can share those skills with a whole group, increasing productivity overall.

However, not everyone excels at managing other people. Sometimes that star employee is good at leading a team for just a short time, but you may see a decline in performance if they take over long-term. Also, though they may be able to make friends and work together, they may not show the empathy and desire to help others that is essential for a manager.

Should you end up with a person like this in a management position, you may find you’ve got a manager who dislikes their team, neglects the other employees, and/or is clueless about how to take a group in the right direction. Trust between members of a department may fall, and productivity certainly will. That seemingly great reward, in the end, will cost your business.

What to Do Instead

Want to promote someone to manager? Don’t do it based only on their closed deals or their productivity. Find out who has the drive for their whole team to succeed. Learn who would be helpful, rather than potentially harmful, in a conflict or when an employee is under stress. This kind of person may not be your star employee, but they may make a great manager. That same study found employees and sales thrived under managers who weren’t the top performers.

Along with promoting the right people, rather than just the best salesmen, you may want to examine the structure of your business. Help your company grow a professional career path, not just a managerial stream. Employees have a wide variety of skills that your company can benefit from. Provide more opportunities for motion and growth for those who do well but aren’t suited to become managers. This will help the right people become managers and everyone else stay invested in helping your company grow. And that, we all know, is vital to the longevity of a company, not just star players.