Four types of employees

(Note: This is a theory that I developed and views are personal. This blog post is not intended towards any specific company but it is merely one of the ways to look at employees and their contribution to the company.)

All employees in a company can be categorized into four broad categories based on the capabilities they have and the ambition they carry. The four categories are clockwatchers, delegates, floaters and conquerors.

Let us plot them on the basic geometrical axes in two dimensional space i.e. X and Y axes. It is pretty simple as you can see. Ambition is on X axis and capability on Y axis, both increase in their respective positive direction. Divide the space in four quadrants. 












Q1: Clockwatchers – Clockwatchers have low capability and they have low ambition. Clockwatchers are hard to teach since they don’t want to learn. They can be non-combative but in an indifferent way. Things don’t matter to them. They only want to come to office in the morning and leave in the evening. They complain about how hard life is if they are asked to work on weekends. Concepts such as dynamic work-load and being there when needed, have no meaning for them. These are people who stay in groups, never speak up and look confused. They don’t ship, they don’t lead and they don’t care. They aren’t needed in the company. Managers have to look for what they contribute. It isn’t obvious. They often say “I am not responsible for that”, “That is not my problem”, ”This is beyond my scope of work”, “There was no one to teach” or “I don’t get paid for that”, “ I am very busy, don’t have time”, etc.

Q2: Delegates–Delegates are one degree above the clockwatchers. Delegates have good capability but lack ambition. Delegates like what they do and they manage to do good work, but they don’t want to boast about it (in the right way of course!) or monetize it. They are shy and unexpressive. But they manage to give all the right answers. They know. Managers can depend on them. Give them work and it will be done. And that is the point. They have to be given work. They take pride in delivering what they promise but they never over-promise. There is no question of over-delivering. Life for them is countable. They usually avoid adverse situations. Their last answer almost always is “I did my part.” They don’t do anyone else’s part willingly. But they are needed in the company. They carry out daily chores and keep the company running. They contribute by sustaining the existing process and process needs them.

Q3: Floaters–Floaters fly around and are sometimes entertaining. They have low capability and high ambition. They talk big but don’t deliver that much. They boast about smallest thing achieved and make it sound like a big deal. For them, even routine is over-delivery. They try to be good to everyone because it falls into their idea of leadership. But most people around them know that they are floaters. They jump at answers and blurt out incorrect facts, only to apologize later. They are socially savvy and sometimes gregarious. They are bad listeners. They are initially impressive but don’t seem to sustain that. They also kiss ass invariably, that is because deep inside, they don’t have the confidence that comes from thorough knowledge. Deep inside they know that they don’t know but don’t have patience to gain knowledge. They are afraid of others usurping their position and hence resort to manipulation, which is often unsustainable. They poke into other people’s work and take pleasure in finding mistakes. They comment on issues that don’t relate to their work. But on the good part, they are enthusiastic about new initiatives and get things started. Since they are socially connected, they are naturally good coordinators. They are good delegators of work, since they know that they don’t have to do much after that.

Q4: Conquerors –Conquerors have both, high capability and high ambition. They take initiatives and lead them through. They conceptualize and implement business plans. They spend time in research and reading before presenting a proposal. People look up to them for right answers and right direction. They lead tribes and ship. They ask the right questions and speak up. You never see them blurting out but they make a point when they speak. They seem to know about a lot of things. Bosses talk to them for important things and they seem to have answers. They are usually well dressed and well behaved. People want to hear from them. They bring in new technology and new ideas. They are the brand ambassadors of the company and that’s why they are usually made responsible of internal or external expansion. But they also want recognition and reward. Mundane things bore them out and if it happens for a long time, they look out for greener pastures.  They are ready to take challenges and win them over, but if there are no challenges, engaging them becomes a challenge. They usually work well with bad bosses and eventually become bosses. They are the ones who can take the company to the next level. They often say “Let make it happen”, “Let us find out”, “We are good but how can we be better?”, “How can we do it faster?” etc.

So what should a successful business manager do? Redefine job roles for clockwatchers, encourage delegates, train floaters and reward conquerors with both good work and good money.


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