If you’ve been a shop owner for any length of time, you’ve more than likely been exposed to, or employed by, a prima donna. According to the dictionary definition, a prima donna is “a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.” If that sounds like someone who works at your shop, this may very well be the perfect article for you.
Putting first things first, most prima donnas are not born that way. Their personality is developed over a long period of time — in many cases, years. In the most general sense, prima donnas are very good producers, and often a shop’s top producer. They are either the service advisors who feel no one can outsell them, or the techs who think they are far better than all the other techs with whom they work.
So, how do they become prima donnas? Well, in most cases, it’s due to one simple reason: They feel as though they have to pat themselves on the back because no one else does it for them. Now, before you tune me out, consider that these are the guys and gals who go to work every day, typically outproduce their peers and then go home tired. They are usually paid quite well because they do produce, but the one thing they don’t receive often enough is recognition for who they are and what they’re able to do. To put it another way, they don’t receive what they feel they have earned.
Over the years, I have learned that there are countless reasons why shop owners fail to praise employee performance, but it seems to boil down to these three issues.
- The employers they worked for when they were techs or advisors never gave them the praise they deserved, so they feel this is the way it should be done.
- They were never taught the value of praising employees, which is something we see throughout the industry on a regular basis.
- Many shop owners are afraid to praise their employees, and this is especially true with their top producers. They have a fear that if they praise the employee’s performance, their head may swell, and the employee will then either demand a raise or simply leave for what they perceive to be a better job.
For these three reasons, far too many employees are not praised as they should be. The result is that they begin to pat themselves on the back. If they find after a period of time that they are still not being praised, they will typically toot their own horn even louder, and soon become the prima donnas with whom we are all familiar.
Here are Some Tips to Better Handle Prima Donnas at Your Shop
First of all, do your best to avoid hiring “premade” prima donnas by paying very close attention to how applicants answer your questions during interviews. It’s one thing for an applicant to have pride in themselves and their accomplishments, but it’s a completely different story when they have an exaggerated ego and look down on others.
Second, you need to make sure you don’t turn your existing employees into prima donnas. The best way to prevent this from happening is to make a point of recognizing each employee for their accomplishments and provide them with the appropriate praise.
You can easily solve the “asking for a raise” concern by simply ensuring that all of your employees know the specific criteria that are in place to help determine who is eligible. And when it comes to employees looking for greener grass, if you compensate them well, and provide them with the appropriate recognition, any threats of leaving will be dramatically reduced.
As a business owner, you need to ask yourself these soul-searching questions: Would you rather praise an employee, see their productivity become maximized and know you run a minimal risk of losing them due to a swollen ego; or, would you rather not praise them, see poor to average productivity, and then lose them because they feel they are not being recognized for their contributions? I sense I know your answer.
Another major challenge with prima donnas is that they often either indirectly put your other employees down by talking about how great they are comparatively, or will directly criticize the performance of other employees. This behavior can have a devastating impact on your shop’s morale and needs to be immediately addressed.
All that you need to do is wait for their next public statement about how great they think they are, or how much better they are performing than your other employees, and then simply call them into your office to have a private conversation with them.
Here is the type of conversation that can help convey your message while allowing your tech to retain their pride:
“Larry, I couldn’t help but overhear what you said just a bit ago to Mike, and you know what, you are a really good producer. There’s no doubt that you are a very gifted tech, but not everybody’s like you. As you know, all of our techs, including you, have different strengths, weaknesses and levels of experience. But the one thing you all have in common is you are an asset to our business.
“Larry, you have been working with us for XX years now, and in my perfect world, we’ll be working together for many years to come. But the only way we’re going to be able to make it work is by all of us treating each other with respect and courtesy. All that I ask is that you show me the same courtesy, and let me tell our other guys when they are doing their job well and when they’re not. I hope you are on board with this plan Larry, because I really do enjoy working with you. So let me ask you; do we have an agreement?”
Businesses, and the people who work within them, really aren’t that complicated. If you treat people with the courtesy and dignity they expect, if you hold everyone accountable to the same standards and if you truly care about people, then all the other pieces will fall into place. And dealing with prima donnas will no longer be a problem for you or your employees.