Tom is more creative than Maria. He can come up with 12 different ways to handle a project, while Maria may find four or five. His insight can be stunning. During his time with the organization, Tom has attracted a sizable group of admirers, along with an equally large group of enemies, possibly because Tom is utterly convinced of the correctness of his positions. He loves to have the last word.
Maria is not as insightful, but she has established a reputation for reliability and steadiness. Her record for meeting deadlines puts Tom's to shame, and while she doesn't have the same number of passionate supporters, she also has not made nearly as many enemies. If you get a project to Tom, you might get something brilliant, or it might be merely satisfactory. In Maria's case, the product won't be brilliant, but it will always be very good.
From a supervisory standpoint, Maria is low maintenance and Tom is high. Their supervisor never has to sooth the hurt feelings of any coworkers because of Maria's conduct, while that is a frequent task in the wake of Tom's rants. On the other hand, Tom has created some high-profile, memorable successes, while Maria has produced nothing that will be talked about five years from now.
Both work in the same division and have applied for the division manager slot. The news just came down that Maria was selected. Tom comes to your office to vent his anger and to ask you, as an objective observer, why he wasn't selected.
What do you tell him?
Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.