Coping With Superstar Co-Workers

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If you hear the words Nike and golf, which celebrity comes to mind?  Tiger Woods, of course.  What about Garnier Nutrisse hair color?  You can probably see those thick, blond tresses tossed about by Sarah Jessica Parker.  And, if you want to get a cut-rate travel reservation, William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk from Star Trek, can get you a deal.  Retail companies use celebrities to endorse products who quickly become the product spokesperson or brand identifier. 

These celebrities are usually chosen at the top of their career, after they have won a major award or tournament, the Oscars or Grammys, or led the winning team to a Super Bowl Championship.  They can bring in a lot of business and raving fans while their victory is fresh on the minds of the buying public. 

Weight Loss companies, like Jenny Craig, use celebrities who have successfully used the plans themselves to promote their plans.  What better way to convince the public that your program works than having a celebrity success story?  They’re already successful and gorgeous.  Now they are slim, too.  But Jenny Craig has had a change of heart and decided to shy away from celebrities for a very good reason.  Celebrities are very polarizing, says an article in USA Today.  Half of the public likes them, and half hate them.  Not great odds when you’re trying to convince the whole world to buy your product.

Fame is also fleeting.  Tiger Woods is a good example of how celebrity and an incredible talent can be overshadowed by poor judgment and behavior.  Overnight, a company’s celebrity spokesperson can fall from grace.  Being the best at one thing doesn’t make you a favorite to everyone.

If you’re lucky enough to get an interview with a top company, you need to let the hiring manager know that you’re the best.  There’s a fine line, though, between having a healthy self-assessment and coming across as superior and discounting everyone else.  Trying to present yourself as a superstar can work against you.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  If you try to convince a prospective employer that they just can’t get along without you, they may just take the challenge and show you that they can.

Companies like to hire people whose references refer to them as superstars.  It works when getting the job, but it’s best to leave the tiara or trophy in the parking lot once you get the job.  Your new co-workers won’t be as impressed.  Work is a team sport. Superstars can annoy their co-workers by constantly reminding them how good they are, how things were done so much better at their previous job, and how much more education, experience and important connections they have. 

If you have to work with a “celebrity,” there are some strategies to help you cope.  Instead of plotting against the offending co-worker, iVillage suggests limiting interaction.  Keep it strictly business.  Separate yourself from the herd of complainers and whiners.  Fair or not, people are judged by the company they keep. 

Office superstars, like celebrity spokespersons, can lose their luster fast if they make a mistake, exercise poor judgment, or lose a big account.  These employees usually have a lot of exposure to big clients and senior management.  Visibility is a double-edged sword.  And don’t expect co-workers who have been pushed into the shadows to feel sorry for the fallen superstar.  There may be more celebration than sorrow around the coffee maker.   

Instead of pointing the spotlight on yourself, strive for your personal best on your own terms.  Help your co-workers succeed.  If you really are a superstar in your field, share your expertise.  You might end up creating a constellation. 

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