Businesses are typically made up of a number of different types of employees and they all need to be managed differently. In this article we will look at four key categories: 

Super Stars

This is typically a very small percentage of your total labour force. They have the ability and desire to outperform. They love doing their best and constantly search for ways to improve. Super stars come in three varieties.

a) Those who are incredible at doing what they’re doing and want to keep doing just that. For whatever reason, they don’t want to take on more responsibility or climb up the organizational ladder. The business world is littered with companies who turn their best salesman into their worst Sales Manager, it’s a completely different skill set. Make sure these top-performers are regularly and appropriately thanked, rewarded and celebrated for their contribution, but not in a way that makes everyone else feel inadequate.

b) Super stars who can and want to move up the ladder. Create a career path for these folks.  Coach and mentor them.  They’re your future.  Give them lots to do; challenge them with interesting projects.  Follow up with them, but don’t micro-manage them. Find out what they want to achieve in their personal life, and make a commitment to help them achieve that.  Thank, reward and celebrate them all the way, but not in a way that makes everyone else feel inadequate.  Ask their opinions and listen to what they say.

c) Potential super stars. These are the folks who haven’t yet had the opportunity to prove themselves, but you see a special ‘spark’ there that can be nurtured.  The ability to spot and nurture these potential super stars is a special gift and is one of the most valuable skills that any business owner or manager can develop within themselves.  It starts with knowing exactly what you’re looking for. Create a career path for these folks. Coach and mentor them. Give them lots to do; challenge them with interesting projects. Follow up with them, thank, reward and celebrate them along the way.  Ask their opinions and listen to what they say.  

Don’t be threatened by super stars. They’re going to help some business be extraordinary, it may as well be yours. Yes, some of them will go off and start their own business some day, but while you have them, use their talent, and appreciate them.

Note:  Beware of ‘toxic super stars’.  Some super stars believe that they’re so special that they don’t have to follow the rules or the business culture. Toxic super stars are a huge problem. Either they get on the team, or they move on.


Good at what they do, team players, steady and dependable.  Either they don’t want to climb the ladder, or they wouldn’t be good at having more responsibility.  These folks might be on your front lines or at some level of management. They’re typically a large percentage of your total workforce.

While they may not be candidates for advancement, it’s important that they continue to receive training, coaching and encouragement to do their job better, especially when technology or systems are changing.  They also need to be thanked, rewarded, celebrated and listened to keep them engaged and keen, and for you to learn from them about how to do things better. One excellent way to acknowledge the value of their knowledge and contribution is to have them mentor new employees.


Underperformers come in two varieties. Those who can be rescued, and those who can’t. 

a) Underperformers who can be rescued. You have a big investment in these people.  If they can be rescued, get on with it. If you’ve not created clear job expectations, provided the right training or given them the tools, empowerment or authority to do the job, fix it. The insightful ’13 reasons for staff non-performance…and whose fault are they?’ can be most helpful in determining the problem and how to fix it. 

b) Underperformers who cannot be rescued. If you have non-performers who simply cannot be rescued, stop wasting your time, and theirs.  Get your documentation in order and set them free to find more suitable employment.  Do it respectfully, but do it. 

Toxic employees

Get rid of them ASAP. These are the people who are wrecking your team, poisoning your culture and driving good employees away. Get your documentation in order and pull the trigger.

Note:  By the way, just because someone disagrees with you some of the time doesn’t make them toxic.  They might be smart, engaged and passionate about improvement.  In fact, they might be super stars!   Always encourage ‘respectful debate’.     

So, there you have 4 different types of employees.  Do you know ‘who’s who’ in your business or department…and are you working with each of them appropriately?  It’s one of your most important jobs as a business owner, leader or manager.   

Source: Donald Cooper