Defining the Players

A, B, C

The following is what I mean by A, B, or C Players

What were you thinking?
If you are a CEO or Manager with direct reports who would come up with D’s and F’s in a school grading system, I cannot help you. Tolerating employees of this quality in your company does not allow you to respond appropriately to — let alone thrive in our current business environment. These low-grade employees (and the Managers who tolerate them) are impacting the rest of your organization. Not only do low-grade employees drag down the company, but they also negatively impact your great and superstar employees.

In short, if you have more than a few D and F employees, sell the firm and do something to save yourself. Your prognosis (and that of your company) is — at the very best — grim. In the next minute, you will be falling off a high cliff. Good luck and start to pray!

Out with Mediocrity
From now on, I’ll refer to mediocre employees as “C Players.” These employees are marginal in their performance and unremarkable in any positive attribute they bring to the workplace. They exist, take up space, and just get their jobs done, sort of.

A test for “C-ness” is putting yourself in this scenario: If one of these employees came up to you and said they were quitting, would you be relieved? Would your relief be because you’re certain you could do better by recruiting a new employee from the open marketplace? If so, you have a classic C Player on your hands. Know anyone like this? Grab a piece of paper and make a list of those people. You will need it later on.

I’ve heard C Players defined as employees who have bad attitudes and cannot collaborate; employees who do not have the skill sets needed to develop and execute what the job requires; and employees who do the same thing day after day and year after year. Again, Mr. or Mrs. Manager, you know you have mediocrity around you when you envision a particular employee leaving and can’t imagine feeling anything but thrilled.

In my work, I have seen companies where no one was average. Mediocrity was simply not tolerated, and because these companies set higher standards, they achieved better results in the marketplace.

Most Valuable Players
“B Players” are great employees, real keepers, and absolutely worth their weight in gold. They are in alignment with the organization’s mission and values. As corporate citizens, they care deeply about their internal and external operations. They are probably not being promoted, but that is fine because they are doing great right where they are.

“A Players” have all the attributes of B Players. They also have the talent, desire, and ability to be promotable. They are interested in professional growth and development. These players, with development, could be moved to leadership either within or outside their current departments.

Warning! Pitfall
A pitfall I’ve often seen with classifying employees in this way is that Managers want shades of gray. They want to rate employees as C+ or B-. They want to make excuses and dance around the issue. It is important that they stick to the A, B, and C buckets. In this process, there are no minuses or pluses allowed. Do not permit gray. Managers need to make choices and deal with the consequences. Employees are either making it as credible A or B Players or not. Managers need to be responsible for whom they are allowing to play in their sandbox; there are no “maybes” on the invitation.