Harvard Business Review: Let's Hear It for B Players

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Harvard Business Review
Let's Hear it For B Players: A Summary

B players are often downplayed as mediocre employees because they lack the “luster and attitude” of star A players. Like any theatre performance, if managerial attention is low on supporting actors, and high only on its few star actors, the entire production will suffer as a whole. In business, a company’s long-term performance rate depends on the “commitment and contributions of B players”—who make up the biggest group of workers at any time.

B players bring unique contributions to a company, even though their value is often underestimated. Not only do B players act as grounders for egotistical A players, but they also make the fewest demands on their bosses’ time. They strive for a strong work-balance life because they value healthy relationships with family and friends. They are truth-tellers in that they have a “zeal for honesty and reality in their interactions with superiors,” and often are more interested in their work than in their careers. They also strive for advancement but not at all costs. These players are not innately less intellectual than A players. In fact, 20% of all B players are “recovered A players”—those who have rejected pressures of living an A lifestyle and have dialed back their ambitions in order to have a better work-balance life. They don’t live to work, but work to live. Another category of B players consists of those who are less competent than the others. They may lack the necessary skills to perform the job well, or they may not have enough ambition to surpass their responsibilities. However, that does not make them any less valuable. Even though they are not able to complete the work themselves, they may provide a useful resource or assistance for those who can in order to make them more efficient. B players who do not attempt to further their own or the company’s status are also important because they ensure that everything is running smoothly. They are...
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