How to Manage Your Overstepping Employee

BY Kathy Crosett
Featured image for “How to Manage Your Overstepping Employee”

You thought you’d made the perfect hire. Your new employee came into the organization with outstanding credentials and a solid work ethic. This person has done very well. In fact, they’re busy overstepping. They’re impressing your boss who is talking about moving your employee up the organization ladder. What should you do now?

Remove Emotion From Your Response

If your first response to this scenario is to clamp down on the superstar employee, you could be the one with the problem. Nihar Chhaya, writing for the Harvard Business Review, advises you to keep a couple of details in mind. You need to preserve your reputation as a manager, and you need to ‘handle the employee.’

It’s easy to react emotionally when an employee you hired isn’t acting the way you expect them to. You might be hoping for loyalty and deference. Instead, they’re showing off their skills and attracting attention. Before you doubt yourself or get petty and start gossiping with others, looking at the situation from multiple angles. Remember that your primary job is to manage your team. You’re supposed to help them be successful, on an individual level and as a group.

Be Consistent

But employees can overstep. They might take credit for something you’ve done. Or they might start managing another team member, giving the impression that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Your best course of action is to address the topic with this individual. Chhaya suggests establishing boundaries and sticking to them. Your employee must get their work done on a timely basis. They’ve made a commitment to you and the team so prioritize tasks for them. You should “demand high performance from them and call them out when they fail to meet those expectations.” 

Don’t come off as jealous or insecure. And don’t change your mind about what’s allowed. Simply remain unemotional, firm and consistent in your communications.

Strengthen the Relationship

Many managers supervise employees who possess skills that are superior to their own. If you’re in that position with your overstepping employee, acknowledge that fact. After all, one of the reasons you hired this individual was because of their skills. You can build a relationship by telling them you admire their skill and by asking them for a few pointers. This strategy mimics the Ben Franklin effect: “This phenomenon suggests that people are more likely to see you as worth helping if you’ve requested a favor from them than they are if they’ve received a favor from you.” 

When you strengthen the bond with this team member, you also build trust. In that way, you can help this employee achieve their goals and show others that you’ve got great management instincts.