The 5 Biggest Mistakes Made by Star Employees

Oct 21, 2013
6 Min Read

Let’s say one day you and your co-workers decide to form a basketball team to get a little exercise after work and maybe form a tighter workplace bond.

But then one day LeBron James shows up and offers to play for the team. That’s a no-brainer, right? You grab the chance to catapult your team to a winning season, led by the Miami Heat star.

Once he’s on the team, you don’t say much other than “great job!” and get out of the way.

But then let’s imagine James begins to show up late for games. He can’t get along with any of the team members,  and he begins to make the game a whole lot less fun. But you don’t do anything.


Because it’s  LEBRON JAMES.

Enough said.

The problem with such stellar talent, whether it’s a professional basketball player or a whiz kid from Harvard who could be the next Mark Zuckerberg, is that they are human. So even though they’re crazy good at what they do, they can still do dumb things.

That’s why even the most talented employees need to be careful they don’t make boneheaded moves that can hurt their career in ways their brilliant minds never imagined. (Oh, and in case these brilliant minds think they can always stay one step ahead of the boss, just consider Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer’s checking VPN logs and discovering how telecommuting workers were slacking.)

Here are some ways talented employees can derail their careers:

  • Whining.  Just because you’re smart and make the company a lot of money doesn’t mean you have a special pass that allows you to openly criticize others in a demeaning manner and whine until you get your way. You still have to do the work to present the hard facts about why your way is better. You still have to collaborate and not drag your feet like a 5-year-old about to be sent to bed early.
  • Not accepting feedback. Super-talented employees often believe they should be providing the feedback, not accepting it.  Give-and-take in the workplace is expected, and if you don’t want to accept comments that others have to offer, go live in a cave somewhere.
  • Running a sideline on company time. Reports were that Yahoo employees working from home were spending much of their time and energies launching their own enterprises.  It’s not unheard of that talented employees may have some independent works on the side, but don’t use company resources or do it on company time.  In addition, syphoning off customers for your own business is a good way to get yourself fired before the end of the day.
  • Ignoring the boss.  Gifted workers often feel they have the best ideas and they often do. That doesn’t mean they can treat the boss as if he or she is a potted plant. Bosses do not take kindly to being ignored and can make your life miserable no matter how much talent you have if you ignore their instructions or input.  You have to include the boss in the loop if you want projects to make it out of your department, be introduced to key players and develop a portfolio of work that can help you achieve bigger and better things.
  • Being disrespectful.  If you harass other workers and make derogatory comments about co-workers, you will concern human resources that you’re a lawsuit waiting to happen. Fears of harassment or bullying claims against the company can make leaders nervous enough to begin documenting complaints against you – and that’s often the sure path to the unemployment line.

Finally, hugely talented employees often are described as  having huge egos. If your ego gets in the way so that you’re unable to work effectively with teams, annoy customers and tick off bosses, you can gain a reputation that makes your star talent not worth the trouble for any employer.

What are some other mistakes being made by very talented workers?

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