What? Remove a Top Performer for Cultural Fit?

Updated: May 8

Every organization, including yours, has a set of core values. Values, and the cultural fit that result, help drive strategy execution. From one organization to another, many of those values, such as teamwork, inclusion, respect and integrity, might overlap. But each one has its own unique way of prioritizing and emphasizing the most important values to the enterprise.

In our white paper “Strategy to Execution (S2X),” we outline the seven Levers of Execution, the factors we’ve identified over the years that make up the critical framework to connect strategy and execution.


The first of these is “Right, Right, Right: The Right People in the Right Roles with the Right Capabilities.”


A critical part of putting the right people with the right capabilities in the right roles is a cultural fit – matching the organization’s people with its values and strategy.


Perhaps you’re nodding along at this point. Of course, your organization wants to fill itself with people who share its core values. But many continue to recruit, tolerate and even promote people who don’t fit, because those people “deliver results.”


It’s understandable. Let’s say a team leader has determined the top sales person in her group is not a team player. (I’ll give you a real-life example of this in the next post.) If the team leader lets this top performer go, she can’t be certain exactly how things will shake out. But she knows that sales are almost certain to decline next month. Why rock the boat when your reward is almost certain to be poorer performance?


One reason is it’s not always easy to balance the benefits of keeping a high performer with the harm. The benefits are easy to measure: our sales are rising; our output is up. The harm is harder to calculate. Maybe your team members aren’t cooperating with each other as much as they should, because they don’t trust that top performer. They think, with good reason, that he might hog the credit (and bonuses). Exactly how much is that costing your organization? The short answer is you don’t know.


But often, it’s more than you think. Sooner or later, a poor cultural fit almost certainly will hurt your results. In business, as in many other endeavors, you’re often faced with a trade-off between short-term and long-term results. It’s almost always easier to choose the short-term and vaguely hope that the long-term will sort itself out.


It rarely does.


A bad cultural fit can happen any time. You might hire someone with a great resume who had a great interview, but after a few months on the job, it’s clear she can’t get along with other workers. A dispute might erupt between two people that starts a cycle of behavior that hurts the organization.


There are often stages in an organization’s life cycle when it’s especially vulnerable to problems with cultural fit. Can you think of when that might be? That will be the topic for the next post.



Intrigued by what you’re reading? Download our white paper on converting strategy into execution and learn more about us by visiting our website. WhiteWater International Consulting, Inc. helps organizations understand the challenges they face and helps enterprises achieve and sustain outstanding performance through unleashing the passion and capabilities of its people. Because an organization is only as good at the people who power it.

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