In any human endeavor I’ve been exposed to, I’ve found this distribution of attitudes in people:
1) The “Aggressively Incompetent” – In my whole life, I’ve only seen a handful of these. But just one of them is enough to ruin an entire project. One of these can negate the work of dozens of people. Fire on sight. The key sign is this: They become this way the second their crap starts reducing someone else’s ability to “produce” (whatever the fuck that means).
2) The “Zoned” – Not too many of these either. These are the people who (no matter how well-intentioned they are) just can’t produce anything for some reason. Keep in mind this isn’t just about producing work, I’m talking also about producing happiness, or camaraderie — positive or negative. Some people, when you take them all together, just end up producing a net ZERO.
Take the peppy upbeat person who never gets their work done on time or the reverse — the asshole who does brilliant work. One one level they seem to be productive, but on another they’re taking productivity away from someone else.
Unlike the Aggressively Incompetent, the Zoned can often turn things around and become Potential Superstars. It’s almost always just that they have some shit going on.
8/10 times, this happens — but the other 2/10 times? Give em a couple warnings, help them out, but fire before it gets toxic. Don’t let their situation develop into an “Aggressively Incompetent” situation.
3) The “Potential Superstars” – Almost always, this makes up the bulk of a team. These people produce at least 1 unit of “productivity” a day — whatever the fuck that means. Given the right project, a good day, or a boss that appreciates their strengths — these people almost always become Superstars at one point or another.
4) The Superstar – Often a workplace will be built around one or more such person. Sometimes they arise from nowhere.The key component of a Superstar is that they “produce” 2 or more units of productivity, whatever the fuck that means.
The surest thing to kill a Superstar is to allow their work to be negated by the Aggressively Incompetent. It kills their spirits faster than anything else. I’ve seen Superstars get stuck in “funks” of uselessness all because of one other person — even to the point of becoming Zoned, or Aggressively Incompetent themselves.
Keep in mind that these groups I’m presenting are not groups OF people. They’re groups IN people.
They are attitudes, but also percentages over time.
None of these describes a person as a whole. To try to do so would be a ridiculous waste of time even if it could be done.
But keep it in mind. It helps.
And if you are a manager, and you notice that someone has become Agressively Incompetent (say if people start complaining to you, you investigate, and find it’s true). Kick their ass out and let their therapists sort it out. Then try to reclaim the Zoned and level-up some Potential Superstars, while scoping down the workload to allow for some recovery time.
For the Zoned — talk to them first, try to get them back. Often they can be turned very quickly. I’ve seen it happen SO many times. They’re just usually upset about something going on either inside or outside of work. Or they might just have no idea how they’re coming across until someone tells them.
For the Potential Superstars, they’re not making problems so try not to overwhelm them. Give them space to work and grow, and give them attention when they ask for it. Don’t expect the same “production level” (whatever the fuck that means) from them as from the Superstars — just as you have no right to expect the Superstars to give you the same every day either.
People change. Notice trends over time.
But fire the hell out of someone if you notice they’re Aggressively Incompetent.
And, for the love of God, don’t ever base your pay scale on something like what I’ve just said.
You’re doing it wrong if you do that. I swear.