On Halloween, beware the cultural vampire


VampireMany business owners and managers have likely found themselves in a predicament similar to the one Eric Sinoway describes in a recent blog for the Harvard Business Review.

One of his firm’s top performers was having a detrimental impact on the company culture. Should he and his partner continue to support and reward the employee based on his results, or should they cut him loose? How do you weigh the results a person gets vs. how he or she gets them?

Culture is a crucial factor in business success. There are dozens of stories of how a company’s culture either positively or negatively impacted its business.

Sinoway goes so far as to quote a Harvard Business School professor who claimed, “maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy.”

Sinoway proposes there are four types of employees in terms of culture:

  • Stars – Employees who perform well and align with organizational values
  • High Potentials – Employees whose performance could improve, but who align with organizational values
  • Zombies – Employees who neither perform well or align with organizational values, and
  • Vampires – Employees who perform well but fail to align with organizational values.

Vampires, Sinoway said, can prove the most destructive, since most companies are reluctant to fire top performers. In this particular employee’s case, Sinoway knew he had to let him go.

For more about how values impact organizational culture and how culture can affect performance, check out our three part series, The Power of Unconscious Biases, The Value of Values, and The Culture Clash.