Handling Your C Players By Mary Louise VanNatta APR, CAE

If you’ve spent any time in high school, chances are you’ve encountered a “slacker.” Slackers, while fun and perfectly nice people, do just barely enough work to pass a class (think Jeff Spicoli from the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont). In schools, slackers are fun to have as friends, but now, all grown up, not so fun to have as employees.

Human resource professionals refer to slackers as “C players.” While not incompetent at their jobs, C players only produce the bare minimum results their employer requires. In comparison, “A players” go above and beyond the call of duty (think Lisa Simpson) while “B players” fall somewhere in between. In general, 10% of a workplace’s employees will be A players, 80% will be B players, and 10% will be C players. While A and B players each require a different human resource approach, C players can often be the most challenging. No one likes to give their employees “the talk.” However, deliberately managing C players is critical to an organization’s long-term success. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

When dealing with C players, McKinsey & Company, one of the most famous management consultants in the country, provide several options. The first option is to offer to give a C player some additional coaching, guidance and training. The C player may have the capacity to become a B player if an employer properly directs them. Another option is to move C players to a different position to better capitalize on their strengths. Jeff Spicoli, for would likely be far better surf instructor than a history student. However, if these options fail to solve the problem, letting a C player go may be the best option going forward.

It’s important to kind yet candid yet kind when dealing with C players. Human resource professionals from McKinsey & Company write that “sugarcoating the truth about subpar performance is disrespectful and unfair” and that “people need regular and candid feedback on how well they are doing.” By making a deliberate effort to address C players, you can ensure that your organization always turns its homework in on time.

Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, CAE is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations, a PR and strategic communications firm in Salem, Oregon. PRSalem.com, @PRSalem