A question came up on the channel the other day, “Why is it a bad thing to hire star candidates? I’ve heard that star candidates spoil the ‘culture’ in organisations.
Is it true? How about building a team of star performers? Would that still affect the company culture?” - Tejas Deshpande
This is a great question and one I’ve been asked a few times over the years (and, asked myself too).
What is a Rockstar?
A Rockstar in this context is someone who is absolutely brilliant at their job; they work hard over long hours, their output is first class and error-free, they are personable and well liked and happy to take on any job.
Unfortunately, they’re a bit like unicorns. Very, very few people are Rockstar calibre.
The problem is, the word “Rockstar” now has a few meanings, and I think Tejas was referring to this one: Dina A from the channel sez: “I’ve heard it in the context of ‘brilliant jerk’ someone with high skill, high capacity, but perhaps negative attitude or who doesn’t work well in teams. And thus ends up negatively impacting team performance outside of their own star performance.”
Someone who is amazing at their specific job, but doesn’t play nicely with others. To understand why the term rockstar is used, imagine, if you will, Van Halen, who’s rider stated “A large bowl of M&Ms, with all the brown ones removed” for any live shows they played (there was a good reason for this, but that’s for another time). If the bowl contains brown M&Ms then Van Halen is going to kickoff and trash the green room. Doesn’t get what he wants, behaves badly as a consequence.
Why would you want to hire a Rockstar?
Because they’re pretty damn good at their jobs. You might want a developer who knows everything about a particular language or architecture, a sales guy who closes almost everything he opens or a designer who’s work is OFF THE CHARTS.
Hiring a rockstar might be a good idea, if you’re just going to hire one because you want a specific job done quickly and done well. You might hire one if you only want a team of one. You would also hire one if you want a really hard time working with, or managing them. You may also find that they become a black hole of work - everything, eventually, falls to them to do, either because they had a hand in it in the first place, or because it’s difficult/technology specific.
Right, all good, but, should I hire a Rockstar?
If you can find one, a real one (the unicorn) then yes, probably - but tread carefully. Even if they’re not a brilliant jerk, you may still suffer from the black hole problem and this person may eventually burn out under the load.
But, like I said, they’re very hard to find and will likely be employed somewhere that pays well and will continue to pay well.
Should you hire the other kind of Rockstar? That depends on where you’re at with your business - if you’re early stage startup, need to get something to market ASAP, or you’ve got a particular problem that needs solving with a very small team and you’re willing to tolerate some behavioral issues, go for it - but be mindful of the consequences.
From the channel
- Emily sez: Hi everyone! If you’re struggling to keep up with best practices in the world of people analytics (especially as automation and AI disrupt your workforce and talent processes), I’d highly recommend this e-book “The New Rules of HR Analytics.” Check it out!
- Dante Pannell Sez: Hey All, Here’s our latest from Woden. This one dives into the tough decisions companies have to make in today’s climate. Whether pressure is coming from customers (Nike) or from employees (Wayfair) these decisions have long lasting effects on a company and its brands identity.
Thanks for reading. Any feedback is warmly received.
Remember, if there’s something in particular you’d like to see in here, then let me know. I enjoyed putting together this issue, so any other topic you’d benefit from hearing about would be great.
Also, I enjoy getting the questions from you people-people as an irregular Q&A email, so if anything is chafing, or you need some advice, hit me up firstname.lastname@example.org