405.627.6326 matt@whyhr.guru

All too often, companies focus heavily on high-performance employees and the business results they produce without evaluating the overall impact those employees have on the company. Over time, that can erode a company’s culture and leave you struggling to recruit or retain employees.

High-performance employees typically drive the most revenue for the company, and that often means they’re allowed to skirt the rules or are granted exceptions to the rules, whether formally or informally. Eventually, that can result in collateral damage to the rest of the company. Employers need to recognize this and keep an eye out for when the collateral damage begins to outweigh the revenue that the individual generates.

We’ve previously addressed the question of whether performance or culture fit should matter more to companies. The ideal employee, the A player, encompasses both performance and fit.

Here, we want to take a closer look at the potential collateral damage of employees who are high performance but low culture fit. In each of the following sections, we’ll look specifically at how these employees, in the upper-left quadrant of the graph, may impact employees in each of the other three quadrants.

Impact on employees with high performance and high culture fit

The A players are in the upper-right quadrant of the graph. We wish every employee could be in this category. Not only do they drive revenue, but they are also great for company morale and culture. Often, these employees are quite self-assured and don’t spend too much time worrying about others in the organization.

It is tempting to assume the employees with high performance but low culture fit won’t create collateral damage to A players, but there is often a subtle mental health impact at play. Eventually, the strain of a colleague who is not a team player but remains on the team anyway can lead the A players to walk away from the position. When they do, it is a huge loss for the company, because these employees are difficult to replace. It is worthwhile to pay attention to any subtle clues A players may be dropping that they are unhappy with their work environment and take action to retain these employees.

Impact on employees with low performance and high culture

Employees who are low performers but have high culture fit are in the lower-right quadrant. Unfortunately, they’re apt to get run over in their jobs, especially in environments where high performers with low culture fit are allowed to take over. Because this group has lower performance, their complaints are often not heard or are quickly dismissed by leadership. Yet, they represent a unique opportunity for the company, because it is far easier to improve an employee’s performance in a job than it is to improve their culture fit.

The collateral damage that can be seen here happens through misplaced resources. Companies spend their time and money supporting the high-performing employees, including those with low culture fit, rather than investing in the potential of all employees. If the goal is to mold employees into A players with high performance and high culture fit, then spend your resources on the low performer with high culture fit rather than the low culture fit employee who is less likely to change.

Impact on employees with low performance and low culture fit

In the past, we have called these individuals the trolls of the company. They’re in the lower-left quadrant. They are on the lookout for opportunities to exploit the company for personal gain, and they notice when rules aren’t enforced equitably. When a company allows an employee with high performance but low culture fit to bend the rules again and again in favor of revenue, this group notices. If and when they are terminated, they will be quick to threaten or file lawsuits based upon the special treatment of other employees.

Managing employees and the overall team dynamic in a company requires constant evaluation and adjustment. There are going to be times where some collateral damage from a high-performance employee is unavoidable and times where the benefits they bring outweigh the damage. However, employers need to be aware of how these employees are impacting the rest of the team and make modifications before the collateral damage becomes significant.

Need help assessing your current workforce for performance and culture fit to ensure long-term stability? We can help!

Get the latest news! 

Get the latest news! 


Sign up below to receive email updates from Why HR, including details on upcoming events in our Let’s Talk series.

You have Successfully Subscribed!