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Published 19 October 2012 06:16, Updated 21 November 2012 06:56
Are workplace vampires a threat to your company’s culture and effectiveness? Photo: Reuters
My business partner and I had a tough decision to make. One of the top producers at our boutique partnership development firm was having a detrimental impact on company culture. Should we continue to support and reward him given his strong results, or should we cut him loose?
Our company, Axcess Worldwide, was shaped in its early years by a small, tight knit group: my partner, Kirk Posmatur, and me and our first few employees. Now, after significant growth, we were honing our strategy, placing the right people in the right roles, continuing to deliver profitability while simultaneously maintaining a strong and meaningful corporate culture, something we consider to be one of our most powerful assets.
The new executive we were discussing that day was doing what we had hired him to: immediately deliver results. But he was doing so in a manner that didn’t strike us as consistent with our culture; he was focused so intensely on “what he did” that he paid little attention to “how he did it,” which resulted in consistently dismissing the opinions of others and pursuing what we felt was a strategy of “winning at any cost.”
The dilemma reminded me something my former professor and mentor, Harvard Business School Professor Howard Stevenson had told me years earlier: “Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.” Later, while working on my recently released book Howard’s Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life’s Work, Howard and I created a classification system to identify those employees that help an organization’s culture and those who hurt it.
When Kirk and I mapped our new hire against these categories, we realized the solution to our problem was obvious. He was a cultural vampire. And so regardless of his functional performance, we had to terminate him.
Eric C. Sinoway is co-founder and president of Axcess Worldwide, a partnership development company, and the author of Howard’s Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life’s Work (St. Martin’s Press, 2012).
Harvard Business Review
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