Performance Consulting

High Performers with Low Ethics

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Prashna Blog 6And, no, this isn’t inspired by the imbroglio that currently envelopes the country’s favourite sport. This is about those of your employees who are consistently on top of the game, are cracking the high net worth clients and are pivotal to your organization’s future. This is about your high performer’s ethics – or the lack of it.

Read on.

They are the bedrock of an organization’s success. They are the ‘A’ raters who are scripting the growth story and are, hence, the most valued assets. There’s an entire world that revolves around them – key client relationships, performing teams, the popularity they have across departments and grades and a generally wider net of influence that they are able to cast. However, what happens when these high performers take the liberty of indulging in unethical practices? It’s simple – there is a conspiracy of silence. It’s far easier for everyone to collectively shut their eyes than risk all that is mentioned above.

What most organisations fail to think through is this – there’s much more to lose when it comes to retaining high performers with low ethics than letting them go.

  • Someone who is intrinsically low on ethics may not even spare the client. Consider a situation where your client deduces a lack of ethics because of your high performer. It would no longer be about the individual – it would extrapolate to the organization.
  • Such high performers may have an innate inclination to focus on only the results – get the job done by hook or crook – with little or no regard for people. If these high performers hold managerial roles, the probability is higher that there exists a generally negative and de-motivated environment within the team, leading to burn-outs, cynicism and attrition. There is also a probability they are creating their own clones within the team.
  • With a trail blazed behind them, these high performers assume a position where they can’t be questioned as long as the job is being done. Consequently, the rules and policies that they and their teams follow will be those created by them – not those created by the organisation.
  • Consider an organisation whose rewards and recognition policy is such that it’s these high performers who get awarded – simply on the basis of what they accomplish and not how they do it. This, in effect, means these folks will be the cream of your organisation, the face of your organisation and the brand ambassadors. Think about them stepping out into the market and carrying your brand name alongside their low ethics.

Assuming your organisation values ethics and wants to build a high performance environment that thrives on ethics, consider the following:

  • Look to the leader: Your high performers are a protected lot. They can afford to keep ethics out of the window ‘cause they are the blue-eyed boys of the one who is leading them. Get your leaders to align, the rest will follow.
  • Think twice before hiring the relatives and the friends: Sure referrals are a great way to bring onboard a ‘known devil,’ ‘hire faster’ and ‘create a familial environment.’ They are also a way to strengthen kingdoms created by some leaders, lower the possibilities of whistleblowers in the system and hamper neutrality. A ‘high performing’ employee referring someone is reason enough to just about meet the person – not to hire.
  • Speak a language that’s understood: Don’t just appreciate the number achievers, the innovators, the extra mile goers. Cull out those who are ethically-driven, those who were able to forego deals that smelt unethical – tell their stories out loud – create examples out of them.
  • Get someone to do the job: Consider creating a committee of ethical employees to ensure organizational ethics are adhered to by one and all. Clearly draft out this committee’s key result areas, empower them and value them. Publicize their work and the outcome of being an errant employee – high performance notwithstanding. Fear can be a great deterrent.
  • Take the tough decisions else save yourself the trouble: If after implementing all of the above, as an organisation you do not have the spine or the inclination to value ethics over the moolah, to ask a high performer to leave and to put righteous decisions before populous ones, you may do better reading up something more interesting – how about the wiki page on Lance Armstrong for starters?

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Neeyati is passionate about designing and driving Organization Development initiatives. She has the innate ability to identify opportunities from business situations and construct innovative solutions to cater to clients' needs. She has proven capabilities in Instructional Designing, Content Development, Facilitating Workshops, Need Identification and Facilitator Capability Building through conducting TTTs and On-the-job Coaching.


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