You’d like to ignore them or just resign yourself to the idea that there is nothing much you can do, but one of your important responsibilities as a leader/manager is to address the “C” players you have on your team. If you don’t, you risk alienating your “A” players who want to be on a high performing team and tempting your “B” players to underperform.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review* identifies three types of “C” players. Here are some highlights on how to handle them.
Type #1: Don’t have competence to perform job. If you suspect this problem, try giving these people challenging assignments while also making sure to give them the support and resources they need. If they do not perform, then it may be a sign that you need to move them to a job with different responsibilities either within your team or elsewhere in the organization or they need to leave. Don’t stew about this – take action!
Type #2: Don’t have motivation. There are a lot of potential reasons for this. Ask about their long term goals – do these job responsibilities build toward their desired future? Ask about their connection to the mission – maybe they need to work somewhere else and you can assist them with the move. Maybe your attentiveness will inspire them. If not, you need to move them out.
Type #3: High performers with poor people skills. It is tempting to overlook this group because of their performance. But they can end up upsetting other valued staff both inside and outside the team. You need to be very assertive with this group. HBR article authors Conger and Church suggest:
“These C players need very actionable, clear feedback from you if you want to reform them. . . You have to illustrate precisely what the appropriate interpersonal behaviors are that they need to demonstrate and which are the inappropriate ones they need to stop. . . Tell them that their job or next promotion is at risk if they continue with their current behavior.”
Like the other types, if your actions do not produce change then you need to move these people out – and not to a different part of the organization as that just transfers the infection.
Moving people out of their jobs is one of the toughest, but important tasks for a leader/manager. And of course you want to do it appropriately and humanely. But ignoring the responsibility simply sets a standard of mediocrity, which you definitely do not want.
*“The 3 Types of C Players and What to Do About Them,” Jay Conger and Allan Church, Harvard Business Review, Digital Article, February 1, 2018.