Like a football team, star players may score more goals, get unbelievably high wages, and fill news headlines regularly. But those who deeply understand the game know that B players are the strong foundation that bring depth and stability to the team. The depth and stability are important factors that enables a team to win trophies.

People will better acknowledge stars, like Lionel Messi, but missed the crucial role played by Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, who enabled Messi to score that many goals and ultimately win a trophy for Barcelona. Introverted and reserved team players, like N’golo Kante and Paul Scholes, may not fill news headlines or demand higher wages, but they surely are the core of their teams. While they may be easily missed by the fans, their teammates acknowledge their importance for the team.

B Players in Business Context

In a business context, B players can be easily undervalued due to their reserved character, avoidance of attention, and lack of entrepreneurial ambition. However, DeLong & Vijayaraghavan (2003) found that long-term performance and even survival of a company heavily rely more on the often overlooked contributions of these players. Practitioners started to realize that managing B players is as important as managing star players or A players.

The importance is even more significant due to the number of B players. According to Tom Gimbel, founder & CEO of LaSalle Network, a staffing and professional services firm, B players make up the bulk of an organization’s employees (White, 2015). The A players constitute the top 20% of the workforce, the B players constitute 70%, and the C players form the bottom 10% of the workforce (Huselid, Beatty, & Becker, 2005). Due to these numbers, it is vital for management to show more interest in them.

B Players are Steady Performers

Malik and Singh (2014) observed the employee differentiation of player A, B, and C, by simply naming them value creators for player A, value sustainers for player B, and value destroyers for player C. While companies are waging the talent war to obtain player A for obvious reasons, they can easily neglect the crucial role of player B who sustains their value. Typically, these players do not demand further attention than they already get, but they still get the work done.

B players are reliable, easy to work with, and rarely cause issues (White, 2015). Some of them are recovered A players, who have the mind and skill of an A player but choose not to get carried away in the hustle life of an A player (DeLong & Vijayaraghavan, 2003). It means that they can be extremely capable individuals who have sufficient skills to even create value for the company. Some of them are go-to people, who may not have the capability of an A player, but have developed a deep understanding of the organization’s processes and norms, which can make them irreplaceable (DeLong & Vijayaraghavan, 2003). Even when they do not have a star capability, B players are still doing the work and can be relied on.

Many B Players are Truth Tellers

People are at their best when their attitudes and values are aligned with the job requirements (Merlevede, 2014). While star players have outstanding skill sets, they may put their interest over the company’s interest as they think that the company needs them and not the other way around. B players, on the other hand, are usually interested more in their work than hustling for their careers, which allows them to go in-depth into their work to find truths.

Typically, truth-tellers are not ambitious and their co-workers don’t consider them as threatening, so they usually are the source of advice (DeLong & Vijayaraghavan, 2003). They can be relied on to honestly and straightforwardly point out issues in the organization with a genuine intention for improvement. They will not shine on the stage, but they will make someone shine on stage.

Depth and Stability

Due to their passionate entrepreneurial ambitions, A players might destabilize the organization. B players can effectively act as grounders for them and bring more depth and stability to the organization, which will slowly but surely improve corporate performance and organizational resilience (DeLong & Vijayaraghavan, 2003). Experienced B players may even develop strong organizational memory that can help newer employees, and the company as a whole, to get through difficult times.


DeLong, T. J., & Vijayaraghavan, V. (2003). Let’s Hear It for B Players. Harvard Business Review.

Huselid, Mark & Beatty, Richard & Becker, Brian. (2006). A Players or A Positions? The strategic logic of workforce management. Harvard business review. 83. 110-7, 154.

Malik, A. R., & Singh, P. (2014). “High potential” programs: Let’s hear it for “B” players. Human Resource Management Review, 24(4), 330–346.

Merlevede, P. (2014) Talent Management, A focus on Excellence. Bookboon.

White, S. K. (2015). How to turn your B players into A players. CIO.

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