“Silver Bullet” Employees

I have a new term to describe what a lot of companies want in a new hire. It’s prevalent across the world, across industries and organisations. It’s called the Silver Bullet Employee. 

What is a Silver Bullet Employee?

  • They’re self-motivated and hard working. They look for ways to solve problems that they aren’t asked to solve yet.
  • They’re learners and doers, they continue their own self-development while having a bias towards getting things done in their organizations.
  • They are super easy to manage as they’re getting things done for their bosses without supervision.
  • They outperform their colleagues and they become profiles for what the company wants in a hire.

Why are they popular?

  • The cover up mistakes and make the company money.
  • They don’t need managing to succeed and deliver.
  • The company doesn’t have to deal with their processes that don’t work because the Silver Bullet covers them with their effort and smarts.
  • Managers can blame problems that are in other areas on not having a Silver Bullet rather than using other problem solving techniques.
  • Hiring one doesn’t require a job description.
  • You can hire one with a very general idea of what you want them to achieve but no plan for how to help or measure that success.

Why they fail in new jobs?

  • They burn out.
  • They’re hired as a Silver Bullet and often the problems they’re hired to solve haven’t been framed correctly from the beginning making it impossible to evaluate their achievements.
  • They start to feel like they’re being taken advantage of by their peers and management.
  • Current employees work actively against them as they’re seen as a dropped in superstar to fix problems caused by current employees.
  • They can’t deal with internal people working against them.
  • They’re unfairly evaluated by managers who haven’t defined success in the role other than “getting it done”.

The Silver Bullet is attractive to managers because they don’t need managing and they make you look good. But another useful point about them is they hide bad management practices. How? Because when they fail it’s so easy to say, “well I guess they weren’t as good as we thought they were” rather than deal with the root cause of the failure.

Of course we can all deal with reality by creating an imaginary alternative, but I think if we’re going to self-evaluate honestly we’ll start to give the Silver Bullets in our midst a fairer chance. They will out-perform but you can’t hobble right from the beginning by trying to use them as superglue for all the breaks you have.



Posted in Business, Careers


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