Sometimes you get an employee who is smart, creative, passionate and pretty darn good at what they do; but they are also arrogant, obstructive, demoralising and high maintenance. This is the prima donna employee and despite their benefits, they are not worth keeping.
I’ve had to deal with many prima donna employees during my career and I’ve always justified keeping them – justified to myself, to my staff, and to customers. After all, they are usually talented and smart and you can’t help think that if you get out of their way, they will really contribute positively to the business. The reality, however, is that these employees require more management – not less – and have a tendency to upset other staff and sometimes customers (or customer’s staff) as well.
Many prima donna’s are super smart.. sometimes near genius levels of intelligence.
Frankly, intelligence or rather super-intelligence can be over-rated when it comes to finding good employees. A company full of people with above average smarts, ambition, solid people-skills and a nice disposition will out-perform the dysfunctional geniuses every time.
Intelligence and arrogance are not bound together. For every genius prima donna that worked for me, there were many others of similar IQ who were not arrogant. They were confident, ambitious and they new how smart they were – but they were a joy to work with. Being smart or even highly intelligent does not make arrogance mandatory.
Some prima donna’s actively undermine the company and its management. Perhaps they have authority issues or cannot work within a system that was created by someone inferior to themselves, but many prima donna’s clearly do not want the organisation (company, team, etc) to succeed. This is a characteristic that others I know have experienced and it goes deeper than using management techniques like “herding cats”… this is about heart. If the heart is not in the right place, you will fight this employee every step of the way and will never win.
As a business owner or manager, there are too many other stresses to let one employee ruin your company and your own job satisfaction. The same positive characteristics found in a prima donna can be found in other people without the drama – so don’t justify your prima donna employee – simply replace him (and don’t wait).