Adders, Subtractors, Multipliers, and Dividers - the types of people

2 minute read  

When you manage a team, or look to grow your team by hiring, you need to evaluate people. Skillset and technical capability are important, but they are not the most critical criteria. So what is? It’s attitude. A person’s attitude shapes his behaviors toward people around him.In almost all environments and organizations, no one works alone. For developers, they could be working with another developer, with a designer, with a devOp, with a project/product manager, etc.

The ability to collaborate well with people is extremely important. And attitude drives that. A keeper employee or teammate requires less of his/her technical skillset, and more of his/her attitude when working with others. When evaluating people in a team, or in general in any organization, we can categorize people in four types: Adders, Subtractors, Multipliers, and Dividers.


This is the type of people you want in your team. They always delivery with polished results. They are never a burden for the team as they hold their weight with excellent performance. They know what needs to be done, how to do it, and do it well. They are individually capable of the work and they bring more benefits to the organization than their costs (direct hiring cost and indirect influence to the team environment).


This is the type of people you want to avoid having. You can typically spot this type through interview when hiring. However, sometimes you’re stuck with them already there if you’ve joined an existing team or your organization has acquired another team. Subtractors are usually good people, well-liked employees. But their performance is not up to the standard.

Don’t mis-label subtractors with junior employees. Junior employees or interns are both new to the job and may not have all the skillset required, so it’s understandable if their performance is lacking. Subtractors are not new to the job yet they aren’t producing more than they cost. Sometimes subtractors have the required skillset but their results are sloppy or require assistants constantly from other team members. This is very distracting to the team.

A good news is we can coach and turn subtractors into adders, given that they have the ability to learn and an attitude toward improving themselves. Once turned adders, they will become a very loyal employee who have grown with the organization. This is a win-win scenario for both the employee and the organization.


Multipliers are adders who not only perform well individually but can also motivate and help others perform. They are productive (it’s a given). And they tend to be very proactive and have leadership skills. They know how to collaborate, how to manage up, how to manage down. They know how to communicate with the internal team as well as external partners. Most importantly, they motivate, encourage, and lift the team spirit through their work energy.

They are the type of people you dream to have in your team but most likely can’t afford.


Fire them immediately. Dividers are subtractors that not only cannot perform, but also damage your team environment. They don’t have accountability for their work. They always come up with excuses instead of realizing where/when/how they may have fallen short. They backtalk and form side conversations to bad-mouth someone or some decision. They are toxic to your team environment. The longer you have them, the more damage they will do to your team culture and morale.



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