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The True Cost Of Keeping 'C' Players On Your Team (As Appeared in Forbes Article on 6/30/17)

Jack Craven
June 30, 2017

**The True Cost Of Keeping 'C' Players On Your Team by Jack Craven as featured in on June 30, 2017

Jill's company isn’t hitting its goals. She's spending too much time managing her team.

Team members have the following grades: “A” players, “B” players and “C” players. Whenever I begin working with other executives like Jill, I ask, “Who do you complain about the most or spend the majority of your time managing?” Their answer: C players. But sometimes, they defend them by saying, “Even though they aren’t hitting their goals, they are so nice and have been with the company for so long.” Or, “It takes so much time to recruit and train new people. The C player employee is good enough.”

I then ask, “How much of a positive impact would your team and company have if you replaced the C player with someone who has the skills of one of your A players?” The executive often responds with silence as they slowly realize the impact of keeping a C player on the team.

Sound familiar?

If executives and managers were to consider the true cost of keeping a C player on board, they would be more likely to take immediate action. To help my clients better understand the true cost of having a C player on their team, I have them use what I call the "C player calculator."

1. Look at the output of the C player. Then consider the output of one of your A players. If you replace the C player with someone capable of being one of your A players, that difference is a cost.

For example, if the C player generates $200,000 in profits and their salary is $60,000, compare that to one of your top A players who generates $400,000 in profits and whose salary is $120,000. The C player calculator cost is $140,000 (net difference of additional profits minus additional salary).

There’s more.

2. Who does your C player report to? Talk to their manager (if it's not you). How much of their time is spent managing the C player compared to an A or B player? They might spend 5% to 10% of their time managing an A player and 15% to 20% of their time managing the C player on areas they need to improve. That additional 5% to 10% of time managing the C player should be added to the cost of keeping them.

If the salary of the manager is $150,000, add 5% to 10% of their salary to the cost of keeping the C player ($7,500-$15,000). If your salary is higher, the cost will be higher.

There are potentially more costs.

3. How many players are on the C player’s team? Ask the A and B players on that team how much time they spend covering for the C player and/or complaining about them. A and B players get frustrated if the C player doesn't hit the numbers needed for the department to reach its goals.

Assuming that the A and B players spend only 5% to 10% of their time covering for or complaining about the C players, the costs add up. If the combined salary of the team is $400,000, the C player cost is $20,000-$40,000. The cost could be even higher if an A or B player chooses to leave the company because the C player is negatively impacting their bonus or raise.

What other costs might there be?

4. If the C player is a manager, how are they holding back the team’s overall impact compared to an A or B manager? Compare the output of the team being managed by the C player to a team being managed by an A or B player. If it's a team of four, combine their salaries at a conservative 5% to 10% estimate to determine the cost of the C player. If the combined team salary is $500,000, the added cost is $25,000-$50,000. The actual cost may be higher when you compare the C player team’s results to an A or B player’s team.

Many managers of C players retain them with good intentions. The purpose of this article is not to encourage managers to fire C players but to better understand the true cost of keeping them and not taking action.

If you have a C player, write down every complaint. Then decide which complaints are important and warrant a discussion in order for the person to retain their job. Create measurable ways to evaluate the deficiencies and decide the duration for them to improve. Then have an honest and direct conversation with the C player and be clear on expectations, what support they'll receive, how the issue(s) will be measured, and the time they'll have to improve. If an issue isn’t important, stop complaining about it.

If the C player improves over time, congratulations. The C player has risen to an A or B player. That’s a win-win outcome. If the C player continues to be deficient in critical areas, know that they were given an opportunity to improve and they failed to do it. The responsibility to keep their job is on them.

Look at the total cost of keeping the C player by using the applicable factors in the above calculator and decide what is best for the company. If you decide that the C player needs to be let go, be compassionate and fair. The hope is that they will find a job better suited for their talents. After my clients have let go of C players, I frequently hear, “We should have done this sooner,” or “We were able to find the right person to take the company to the next level.”

Look at your employee roster. Who might be on your C team?  Use the C player calculator and decide what action you want to take.

Jack Craven
Jack Craven is an executive coach to business leaders, and the teams and companies they lead.

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