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Don’t Hold on to Your C-Player(s)


Since I cofounded MGR360, I’ve talked to so many leaders who have a C-Player or an underperforming employee on their team and don’t know what to do.

It’s a painful but common situation. What’s a good boss to do?

The first order of business is ensuring that you’ve given them the proper chance to thrive on the team. Ask yourself:

Do they know WHAT they should be doing? Have we set clear goals and expectations together?
Do they know HOW to do it? Have I trained them adequately and given them the resources they need?
Do they know WHY it’s important? Have I shown them how their work connects to the big picture of the company? Do they know how they impact their colleagues and/or customers?

If you have equipped them with the guidance, resources, and coaching needed and they are still a C-player after a quarter or two, it’s time to give them a different role or let them go.

In my experience, lots of bosses know it’s time to let the C-player on their team go, but they don’t. Why? Usually it’s one or more of these:

1. It’s painful to let someone go.
2. Hiring someone new is hard.
3. The team will have to pick up the C-player’s slack after they’re gone.

None of these are good reasons to allow an underperforming employee to remain. Firing and rehiring is hard, but your team is already picking up that person’s slack.

And that’s not all.

Harboring a C-player long-term puts an emotional strain on your A-players—your most valuable asset. A-players don’t like to work with C-players. If you keep the C-player because you don’t want to have to rehire them, just imagine what happens when they drive away your best team members!

C-players also hurt your team’s reputation, whether in internal interactions or with customers. They can be negative ambassadors for the work your team does and how you lead.

All this said, retaining a C-player also is simply not fair to the C-player themselves. The fact of being a C-player is almost always contextual. In another role, they could be an A- or B-player—and be a lot more fulfilled.

You may put off letting the C-player go because you “don’t want to deal with it,” but you already are dealing with it.

And if you don’t believe that, just ask your significant other, your kids, or your team . . .

Picture of Alicia Thrasher

Alicia Thrasher

Alicia is cofounder and CEO of Manager360. Previously, she brought her leadership, vision, and strategic oversight to many executive positions, including leading programs for eBay/PayPal, Google, and Anheuser-Busch. She is the coauthor, with Joel Trammell, of The Manager's Playbook: Make Exceptional People Management Your Competitive Advantage.

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