Poor Michael Phelps – after a dismal fourth place showing at the Men’s 400 M race in the London 2012 Olympics, everyone is talking about the new golden boy, American Ryan Lochte, and wondering how Phelps will make up ground from his abysmal fourth place finish. Phelps’ performance in the water has been the focus of most Olympic coverage since Saturday. He may have shrugged off his loss by just calling it ‘a crappy race,’ but it was probably a little bit more than that considering Phelps only started training again six months ago, and commentators have been talking about his poor performance during the qualifiers. So, since everyone else is talking about it, we figured that we could shoehorn the topic into our own blog by helping our readers figure out if they have a ‘Michael Phelps’ situation in their own office.

He is holding onto that medal like it is the only real thing left in his life.

1. Is there an employee that is way too overconfident?
Maybe a few months back they were the office’s star employee. They had all of their reports done early, they got along well with others, and they won the hearts and minds of everyone watching. They could do no wrong. Then, after a some time had passed, they began to slack off a bit. No big deal – they were doing more than their share of work before, and now they’re just settling into everyone else’s level. Then they started to do less, started to show up late or expect others to pick up their slack. And yet, despite all of this, they were genuinely surprised when the rumors about their lackluster performance finally hits their ears.

Overconfidence can hit anyone without warning. Office environments don’t lend themselves well to a lot of negative feedback, lest they become mired in low morale. It’s difficult to judge our performance when no one is willing to tell us our performance is slipping. But if you have a co-worker or employee who is beginning to get a little sluggish, try to nip it in the bud. That doesn’t mean making a big, dramatic scene by calling them into the office and going over numbers from three years back, but a quick chat about getting things where they need to be is a great way to make sure that they don’t flounder and choke when things get hectic.

2. Can they stand not being the best?
There are plenty of people out there who get very upset when they aren’t seen as the best at what they do. These types of people also end up grating on their co-worker’s nerves, and sometimes those co-workers feel a little schadenfreude when that top dog falls from grace. All of this leads to a fairly negative working environment, so if an employee is beginning to see their numbers drop or managers ignore their ideas they need to honestly ask themselves if they can handle a scenario wherein they aren’t the best at what they do. Unfortunately, these types of questions can cause them to turn inwards, and its important to remind them that, even if they’re not the best, they are still pretty dang good.

3. Do they want to become better?
There is always some innate, competitive drive that inspires us to push ourselves to the brink. Offices, especially offices that sell something, feed into that competition. And that is perfectly fine! Sometimes we need something to inject a little excitement into our day. But eventually that competitive drive burns out, especially when an employee thinks they are the best and there is no one who could challenge that position. Then when that self-understanding is inevitably challenged, the person who was once on top feels that it would be impossible to ever reach that position again. So they shut down, and just do the bare minimum.

And that isn’t a healthy mentality to have. So if there is an employee on the floor who is barely being noticed after months of being on top, talk to them. This type of situation can be very depressing, and sometimes we need to be reminded that its just work, or a hobby, or a sport.

That, sometimes, we just have ‘a crappy race.’ Phelps still has 5 races to compete in (one of them tonight!), and we’ll all be waiting to see if he can bring back some of the magic he showed in the water at Beijing. There is no reason that an ex-golden employee could not do the same.