Mercenaries, misfits, and missionaries in an organization

There are three kinds of employees in any organisation – mercenaries, misfits, and missionaries

The mercenaries are transactional. Most of the time they are great at what the company wants them to do, but they’re only in it for the money. If another company offers them a little more, they’ll switch. There’s only one thing they love and are loyal to – money.

There will always be misfits in an organization, no matter what management does. Misfits may come in as misfits or evolve into one. When there is an urgent need, hiring a misfit might be the only option, even if the management knows that the person is a misfit. There are times when existing employees become misfits. A company might change direction as it grows, or a person’s personal situation might change and they become misfits.

Lastly, there are missionaries. They not only bring passion and competence to work, but also rally teams to accomplish impossible missions winning awards and appreciation for the team. They can go out there and find the best talent.

Treating all three equally is a huge mistake.

Missionaries don’t always demand privileges. Failing to appreciate them and not taking care of them well would be deadly. They’re proactive and have agency, so they have valuable connections outside the company. It’s easy for them to get a job. The only reason they haven’t moved on is because they still believe in their mission.

Every company needs mercenaries. You can’t eliminate them. You’ve got to manage them. They know what they’re worth and will demand money and privileges. You have to engage them on their terms and satisfy them because they have skills and competence.

Get rid of the misfits as soon as possible. Your company culture will deteriorate if you’re complacent in dealing with the misfits. They’ll breed and bring more misfits.

This post was inspired by one of my favorite books, Blue Sweater. Jacqueline Novogratz, the author says in the book, “it is said that three kinds of people come to Africa: missionaries, mercenaries, and misfits.”