Reining in Your Overly Ambitious Employee

It can feel like you’ve struck gold at first when you hire an ambitious employee that takes ownership over their part in your business. Hearing ideas and seeing exuberance for the mission of the organization can be very refreshing and heartening. However, some employees have the tendency to go a little overboard and take their ambitions from a productive place to a place of distraction and even disruption.

If you find yourself dealing with an overly ambitious employee, remember these tips.

Be Delicate in Addressing the Situation

Employees that freely offer ideas and are excited about their jobs have good intentions. Coming down too hard on them make them question their value and fit with the organization. Be mindful of hurt feelings and careful of your wording when coaching – but make sure to address the issue.

Firmly Redirect Their Focus

Delicate doesn’t mean lax, as it’s important to be firm when redirecting the employee’s focus. The issue with overly ambitious employees is often that primary job duties are being ignored while outside endeavors are being pursued. Be clear in what is expected of the employee and what the priorities of the job are.

Appreciate the Enthusiasm

Let the employee know that you find his or her enthusiasm refreshing and appreciate the dedication to the business and the mission. Make sure it’s understood that the enthusiasm is not the problem. Separate the enthusiasm from the disruption that the misplaced ambition is causing and express this when coaching the employee.

Create a System for Expressing Ideas

Accepting ideas and feedback from employees is always a good idea, so set up a system that will allow ideas to be expressed and considered in a productive and orderly manner. Squelching an employee’s ideas completely is in poor taste and not likely to help your business or the employee, so give him or her an outlet for expression that doesn’t infringe on their other work or your other projects. You may find that your other employees are happy for the new outlet, as well.

Assess Job Satisfaction

If a highly motivated employee is constantly going outside of the bounds of his or her established job duties, it may mean that he or she is unsatisfied with the current position. Check in and see if there is a need for reassignment or concern, or if the current position is simply not challenging enough. You may be able to figure out how to use that employee’s time in ways that are more beneficial to the bottom line, while maintaining satisfaction and engagement.

Allow Room for Creativity

If your ambitious employee’s ideas are not all bad, it may be wise to allow him or her some breathing room to work out the ideas. Make it clear that all regular job tasks take priority, but that ideas can be worked on at certain times after those are completed. This may cost you a few labor hours, but can ultimately help your business grow and transform your enthusiastic, disruptive employee into a leader and innovator.


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