The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “She’s got slapdash…”

Question: An employee who was at one time the star of the business has become very slapdash and is often late for work. I don’t want to sack her but cannot afford to let others see her getting away with this attitude. Dan

Answer: Your top performer is now under-performing so it’s right to tackle this now. You give more details in your email so we know there’s no external cause and there’s been no change at work that could have upset the balance.

How well do you understand what drives her? I’m vastly oversimplifying here, but high performers can often be motivated by an internal need to be the best, driven by a fear of failure or the thrill of the chase. Others require external recognition of their achievements to maintain performance via company awards or continual personal praise. So you have three possibilities here. Either she’s satisfied her own internal/external need to succeed and she’s bored, or feeling less valued, or you’ve sublimally pinned your company’s success on her success and the stress of that expectation has now got to her.

So, as in all cases where there’s a performance issue, gather your evidence and then have the conversation with her. A skilled manager will be able to find out what motivates their star performer so discern that and then, if you can, re-motivate her.

If she’s fallen off the cliff because of the stress of having the company’s hopes pinned on her, you have a responsibility as her employer and must immediately address that.

Finally, if she’s just outgrown your company, whatever you do will not work. Better you acknowledge that now, support her in finding alternative employment and use your energies in motivating everyone else to become high performers.


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Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company.  Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach.  If you have a problem then contact her at

Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.