In these seemingly dark economic times, tough decisions are being made in executive offices across the country: with less revenue this year than last, who gets to stay and who gets let go?
These are tough questions with no easy decisions (well, maybe a few easy decisions). The obvious answer is to keep the highest performing employees, who bring in big bucks and big clients. The folks over at Harvard Business Review, however, disagree with this approach.
Who’s most critical to your company’s success, especially during a weak economy? Who supplies the stability, knowledge, and long-term view your firm needs to survive? B players—competent, steady performers far from the limelight.
These supporting actors of the corporate world determine your company’s future performance far more than A players—volatile stars who may score the biggest revenues or clients, but who’re also the most likely to commit missteps. B players, by contrast, prize stability in their work and home lives. They seldom strive for advancement or attention—caring more about their companies‘ well-being. Infrequent job changers, they accumulate deep knowledge about company processes and history. They thus provide ballast during transitions, steadily boosting organizational resilience and performance.
Yet many executives ignore B players, beguiled by stars’ brilliance. The danger? If neglected, these dependable contributors may leave, taking the firm’s backbone with them. How to keep your B players? Recognize their value—and nurture them.
While these so-called “A players” are dreaming up the next big idea that will rocket the company to super stardom or wining and dining a major client whose business will take the company into a higher tax bracket, the B players are working diligently in their cubicles putting together presentations, managing client relationships and keeping the company running each and every day.
By sheer dollar measure, B players don’t appear to bring in as much value as an A player, but in terms of long-term value to a company, B players are the ones holding the key to the company vault so to speak. Though B players may lack the motivation or dazzle of more ambitious A players for a variety of reasons, they still provide vital production, intelligence and project management skills that if measured in hard dollars, would far surpass those of their more prominent A counterparts.
In my own experience, I’ve seen examples of B players being devalued and even let go–to the detriment of their respective employers. One solid B player, well beloved and respected by both those in his department and those outside of it, was unceremoniously fired one day for requesting that he get paid what he was worth. Apparently, management decided to value their bottom line over a quality employee with a history of good performance and working 10-hour days (with no overtime).
Another B player I know, who fits Harvard’s description to a T, is seriously job hunting after his manager refused several times to promote him citing his “lack of motivation” to take on new projects—even though this B player has the heaviest workload and manages the highest number of projects of any member of his department. Instead this player’s manager chose to commit the biggest mistake of any manager: promoting what I like to call the “F Player.”
An F (for “fake”) player is one who masquerades as an A player but in reality produces little to no value to the company. They get ahead by capitalizing on their generally excellent public speaking and persuasion skills, pulling the wool over management’s eyes as to their actual contributions. B players can always ferret out an F player, another reason why they are so valuable to have around.
During any hiring or firing deliberations, it’s important for management to remember that every company needs “worker bees.” Companies made up solely of idea men will be great at coming up with hot new products, but crippled by their inability to execute on them if they do not retain enough B players to build their products.
Michael Scott, Steve Carrell’s character on the hit show, The Office, once recited a great quote about the role of managers:
“Good managers don’t fire people. They hire people and inspire people.”
Although Michael Scott’s character is the poster-child for bad management, his message still rings true.