A very common reason for the emergence of toxic business cultures is putting profits above value. Today I will share with you a tool that will help you evaluate the people you work with better and make it easier for you to make decisions regarding promotions, salary increases and redundancies. All you have to do is divide people into four groups.:

performance values matrix

1. Incompetent people you don’t share values with 

It is not difficult to make a decision about these people. It’s more difficult to dismiss them with class and without putting additional burden on both manager’s and the dismissed people’s psyche. There is no other way, we need to let them go because otherwise we will lose our team’s respect and we will deprive the people who don’t cope with work in our company of the possibility of changing their job for a one they would simply fit better.

2. Competent people you share values with

Here too, usually, there is no difficulty in making decisions. These people are the first in line for raises, promotions, etc. If there are more people like that in your organization – you’re doing a good job. Take care of the people who are in this quadrant and get them to teach others so that they have more good friends and colleagues you share values with.

3. Incompetent people you share values with

What can be done if you have someone in your team who does not deliver results but everybody likes them? What if you also love this person? You must ask yourself 2 basic questions:

  • Can I make changes that will make that person achieve results?
  • Can I do it fast enough so it makes business sense?

If you are honest with yourself, you will most likely answer that you are not able to do it. Or that you are but it would require so much time or effort that it wouldn’t make much sense. It is worth considering transferring this person to a different position in such a scenario. If you don’t have any vacancies though, you have to fire that person. Ideally, if you are able to help someone like this land a new job, especially one they would be good at – do it. That way, it will all be easier for you to communicate this to teams in cultures that don’t really tolerate dismissals of loved ones – even when they don’t do their job efficiently.

4. Competent people we don’t share values with

performance values matrix

What should be done when one of your employees delivers 30% of the monthly result of the entire company and, at the same time, is an asshole? This indeed is a very difficult question.

Will you fire them and risk not meeting the KPIs based on which investors have made their next investment round dependent? Will you let them work and let the whole company see that implementing KPIs is more important than its culture and values that you proclaim? This is a fundamental question because the first scenario may cause your company to end up six feet under. The second scenario may cause your company culture to be as great as the one Travis Calanick built in Uber.

Re-education and retribution

Theoretically, there is a third alternative: re-education and retribution for behavior incompatible with your values. However, I have never seen an asshole who stopped being an asshole just because of  re-education. Unfortunately, as managers, we often overestimate our ability to change people. Usually, re-educated assholes pretend to be polite only when their manager is present.

However, give them a chance – even if chances they will use this opportunity are small. If you can’t see 100% involvement in the re-education of a competent asshole, you have to fire them and deal with business consequences later. They should be fired loudly and transparently to communicate clearly the reasons to the whole company. In drastic cases (e.g. breaking the law or theft) – outside the company as well. This way, the example set will have a disciplinary effect on the whole team and will also serve as a deterrent to people who could come to your company and poison its culture.

Apart from sending this post to your managers, there is one more thing you could do for them. Take care of profits. It is much easier to fire a competent asshole when his absence limits the profitability of your business – but doesn’t increase its losses.