How to Manage a Superstar Employee How to Manage a Superstar Employee

How to Manage a Superstar Employee? Insights and How-tos

As a boss or the manager, maybe you prayed for them, maybe you just avoided having one, or maybe you always had the thought of working with one, especially while drifting off during those lacklustre work meetings and soporific presentations! 

Yes, we are talking about none other than your superstar employee!

Well, now that you have one, are you prepared enough to manage your superstar employee? Or, if you already have one in your team, is your crew optimised to bring out the best in your superstar employee and take the organization to new heights? 

A superstar employee is a high achiever, and they come in all possible shades of personalities, professional skills and work ethics. Understanding and leveraging these nuances to create the ideal conditions at the workplace for your superstar employee could be a game changer that you have been dreaming of.

In this article, we would walk you through the world of high achievers and superstar employees. You will get a big scoop on how you can spot these talented types, what you can expect from them at the workplace and how to make the best out of their talent and personality.

How to Spot a Superstar Employee?

In a meeting of the CEOs, they spotted quite a few qualities of irreplaceable all-time favourite employees. Let us relate to you the points that all the CEOs agreed upon. 

Is there an employee who is proactive and hard-working, who just rolls up their sleeves and dives into a task to contribute in however little way, which ultimately makes a significant difference anyway? And, did you notice the one who is self-reliant yet with savvy leadership qualities capable of gathering many reluctant but talented hands on the deck to accomplish difficult tasks, a feat that makes you think of nothing short of magic?

Is there someone who is sincere, hard-working, drama-free and lets their work speak for themselves, yet at crucial junctures is not afraid to challenge the status quo and thereby ruffle a few (boss) feathers?

How to Manage a Superstar Employee
Source: Pexels

Do you have someone in your team who frequently brings fresh ideas and perspectives to the table that have proven a game changer in your projects?

These qualities speak of employees who are passionate about what they do and consistently deliver in their area of work, and at the same time are honest, flexible, modest, and willing to learn and contribute to the growth of the organization in some form or the other. 

Address them as superstar employees, refer to them as Hi-Pos or high potential employees, or endearingly call them ‘unicorns’. In short, these employees are what you should be looking for, nurturing for and rooting for. 

Don’t have a superstar employee already, but are these traits making you crave one? Then, use this guide that has all the nitty-gritty about how to hire one.

How to Manage a Superstar Employee?

The key to managing a superstar employee is appreciation and support. Let’s check out what that means in the workplace.

1. Have a Stellar Workplace Ready: When it comes to nurturing and managing a superstar employee, you better have a matching superstar team and stellar organizational policies ready! 

Know one thing for sure, that your superstar employee has seen their potential and proven their capabilities well ahead of any manager or boss. They have high expectations from their workplace, managers and coworkers that would provide them with a conducive environment to perform. 

Superstar employees tend to be quite non-linear and offbeat with how they approach work and deal with issues. To accommodate all that goes in their smart head, they need a flexible working environment. 

Solutions need to be innovative and maximize whatever resource the company can avail. While Google’s nap pods might not be budget-friendly for your budding startup, at the least be open-minded and genuinely ask what would help them and do your best to accommodate and make the workplace enjoyable for all employees, especially for your unicorn.

The mid-sized NGO that I locally volunteer for has multiple rural locations. The employees working at these locations do not have to work from a physical office space, rather they work from amidst the people where they are implementing the project. This is a truly win-win situation because it helps reinforce the strong people relation that the work demands while saving unnecessary upkeep.

2. Spot ‘em Early! The sooner you identify your superstar employee, the better the chances of building trust and optimally harnessing their skills and potential. This stands true for any employee, but X times more so in the case of your high performers as they bring with them their complete package to the workplace, right from day one.

how to manage a superstar employee
Source: Pexels

3. Let Them Prove Themselves and to You: All this discussion about how to nurture a superstar employee didn’t have to take place had we been living in a workplace utopia. Consequently, many superstar employees have remained just as a potential rather than a blossoming talent, who either didn’t have a chance to showcase or even know, their own potential.

As a talented manager, you have the responsibility of spotting and shaping all kinds of Hi-Pos employees. Do not jump to conclusions about what ‘you’ think they can or cannot do. 

Instead, begin by communicating openly and get to know what ticks them. Then, based on Task Relevant Maturity, decide how much supervision they need for a particular task and provide support and inputs accordingly. Also, check whether they are assertive in choosing their tasks or yet to build their confidence, give them good problems to chew on and they will thank you for that. 

Even if your superstar employee is not in a formal leadership position, consider them one. Give them a competent team or make them part of one, make sure that they understand the tasks, and get out of their way.

4. Reward them With Perks, and Responsibilities: While a salary and position raise are reinforcing rewards that unambiguously reflect their contribution to the organization, be careful not to promote them to positions that will cut them off from showcasing their skills and passion. Pay for performance as a singular means of employee appreciation tends to hold little space in Hi-Pos employees’ hearts if not accompanied by something that they value intrinsically. 

For example, if they like to directly manage a team, promoting them to a gorgeous corner office with a grand vista with little contact with a dynamic crew might be just the itch for them to start finding a new job. So, as a means of appreciation, why not help them find a great mentor who would teach them the ins and outs of the industry and increase their chances of getting promoted?! 

A gleeful story goes like this. My friend, who recently joined a promising tech startup as a developer, and is also interested in investing in stocks, pleasantly found out that employees with stellar track records are given stock options. This helps retain the superstar employees by making them stakeholders and taking ownership of the development of the startup.

5. Follow Through: Do not over-commit to what the organization can do for the superstar employee, and equally important is to not back off from commitments you have made to them. As a manager, build credibility by clearly defining the goals and expectations from the outset and mutually working through challenges on the way rather than backing off, especially unannounced and at the last moment.

Absolute No-nos for Managers (= Less Sad Tears Afterwards)

How to Manage a Superstar Employee
Source: Pixabay

There are a few lines that a manager should be wary of crossing with a superstar employee. 

1. Insensitivity: Do not ignore their hard work and exceptional insight as irrelevant or unnecessary. Give immediate informal and heartfelt feedback for their outstanding work, don’t wait for the annual performance review. 

2. Sidetracking: Do not give them unnecessary work errands to run or busy work just because you have no good work for them. Or, even worse, you are deliberately sidetracking your superstar employees to keep them from shining. Here, we have a very simple two-word advice, please don’t. 

3. Putting on Airs: Be humble, because we can all learn from even the junior team members especially when your superstar employee knows better than you. 

4. Red taping: Keep aside workplace bureaucracy and actively promote and reward a pervasive culture of openness and measurable progress. This is true for a mid-manager, and according to a series of studies done by the Harvard Business Review, stands even truer for the leadership of a company who are placed to implement this across the organization.

What to Do When Your Superstar Employee Acts Up

As a rule of thumb, the Olympic Games motto of ‘Faster, HIgher, Stronger- Together’ defines superstar employees quite a lot. Except for the ‘Together’ part. 

Depending on their personalities and work experience under their belt, your superstar employee might start drawing too many lines outside the box named company rules, or challenge too many status quo for anyone’s benefit. 

Situation 1: Your high-performing superstar employee storms in through top leadership’s physical or virtual doors. 

Insight and response: Superstar employees often have ground-breaking ideas that could be offbeat, needing solutions that may seem outlandish. Mixed with the passion for their work and depending on varied degrees of boldness and risk-taking behaviour, they sometimes tend to bypass the organizational and hierarchical rules and regulations to achieve results. 

As a manager, handle the situation with a sincere and honest conversation about the rules, at the same time making sure there are minimal red tape, and openly discussing with them the cost-benefit of taking out-of-turn moves.

how to manage a superstar employee
Source: Unsplash

Situation 2: Complaints about work overload are pouring in from an otherwise chill team that is working under your superstar employee.

Insight and response: There can be two very different situations here. Either your superstar employee is themselves under high pressure from unbridled expectations from top bosses who assume that just because superstar employees can outperform others, they can take any amount of workload. Or, your unicorn is flying too high in thin air- and they might soon crash taking others with them. 

This situation gives me a flashback when my manager, who was brilliant and a true problem-solver, frequently used to get in sticky situations because they had too many expectations from employees who had yet to learn the nuances of the work. 

So, do what my top boss did! Get in your mentor suit and discuss the issue privately and candidly, taking however much time it needs to empathetically understand the situation. Depending on how complex the situation is, bring in senior team members working under your superstar employee and come up with workable solutions. Trust me, this way of solving things has happy and uplifting endings!  


If all this shaking of the workplace grounds is more than simply a matter of learning and appreciating each other’s work languages, there could be more sinister and complex issues lurking underneath apparent discordance. One recurring reason involves poor management, unnecessary red tape, and a lacklustre work culture with negligible growth opportunities. 

But it could also be a good dash of crushed hope on your superstar employees’ part. As complicated as this may seem, don’t fret because there are some smart solutions to your problems. 


Are high achievers born or made?

Being a high achiever is a skill, and as we all know by now they have little to do with their mom and dad, and by that we mean genetics. Being raised in an environment where these skills are nurtured could lead one to have the mindset of a high performer. 

What is the personality type of high achievers?

It is sometimes agreed upon that superstar employees have the personality type called, well, Achievers. However, neither perfectionists nor high performers should be assumed to be leaders. 

What are the differences between perfectionists and high performers? 

It depends on the context, and particularly how a person or an employee is handling issues around work, and even to the point of living their personal lives. So, as you can guess, the line between perfectionists and high performers is drawn on sand (that is very close to the waves)! 

Why do high performers fail to get promoted?

There can be ‘n’ number of reasons, but many of them have to do with superstar employees failing to showcase their talent beyond measurable results. It is not every day that you would have stellar sales or a breakthrough business plan. Because both the boss and the superstar employee expect nothing short of top-level work, they often miss out on ‘playing the game’ and high-visibility opportunities, and in turn, become unsung heroes. 


Being a manager can be a difficult and precarious place to be, especially when you have a superstar employee on board! While they have the potential to take the organization to new heights, there are more pitfalls than you might be aware of when it comes to working with them. I hope you now know the tricks to manage them and create an ideal workplace for consistent win-win.

Last Updated on by Pragya Chakrapani


  • Lucy

    Payel is an avid writer. She hails from the community and public health fields. She has an insatiable knack for traveling, meeting people, and knowing their cultures and customs. Her writing reflects her passion in the lifestyle and health genre. Through her writings, Payel weaves words to bring out the nuances and angles of our lives and things that matter to us. Education MPH, MSc Specialization in Public Health and Biology Certifications/Qualifications MPH MSc in Biology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *