It would be ideal if recruiting worked perfectly and all new hires were perfect assets to your specific workplace culture. But that's not ever going to be the case. We humans are a widely varied bunch and every process — recruiting, onboarding, and management — is dictated by the uniqueness of the people involved.
So there are always going to be some new hires that in due time reveal themselves as inappropriate to the requirements and spirit of your workplace culture. And typically, all too often, these people are kept on and on and on until the inevitable has to happen. They must be let go. But usually this follows months and even years of team upheaval, manager distress and disappointment, and of course inadequate work ethic and output.
What's the problem? Why is it so hard to pull the plug on these folks early on?
Three Key Management Traps:
1 - False Hope
You believed in the person when you agreed to hire him/her, so you want to give that person as much time and freedom to get acclimated and prove you were correct in your decision. You know it's often challenging at first when someone joins an existing team or takes over for a leader that has now left the company or been promoted to new stature and greater responsibilities.
So you continue to hope that all will be well — in due time — even when the signals start to appear that it won't. After all, you are terrifically busy and you don't want to believe that you made a mistake and now have to let this person go and hire someone new. After all, that's going to be a drag on your time AND on your ego AND on your professional reputation.
2 - Not Wanting To Hurt Anyone's Feelings
Most people would prefer to never hurt anyone's feelings or upset the status quo. And business managers and supervisors are no different. So rather than bring up the evidence that someone is having a difficult time, or is acting out their dissatisfaction by coming late to meetings, refusing to be present in team meetings by monkeying around in their iphone, or routinely turning in their work after the deadline you wait, you put off the "big talk for small boys/girls."
And it just gets worse. And worse. And even worse. Until you absolutely have to take action or your entire team or company will be all over you to do something.
3 - Hating To Admit The Mistake In Hiring
It's not just that you have to face having confrontational conversations with the misfit in question, you also have to come to terms with the fact tat you got it wrong during the recruiting process. And even if you inherited the person when their former manager left the company or got promoted, you still had faith that everything would work out.
But now there's no room for turning a blind eye, hoping against hope that you will be redeemed as having made a good decision in bringing the person on and/or having hoped they will turn themselves around and become reformed. You must accept defeat and it feels terrible.
So what to do the next time!?
Three Management Misfit Musts
1 - Address Issues Immediately
The biggest mistake managers make is to wait to bring up problems. It gives both people a false sense of optimism that everything will be alright when it isn't now and may never be. Nip problems in the bud, as they say, and you'll be way ahead of the game when the person does step up to the plate OR they continue to spiral downhill making their exit a foregone conclusion.
2 - Allow Only One Second Chance
The second biggest mistake we see is managers waffling about what to do. They announce one thing ("You have to meet the next deadline or we'll need to meet with HR.") and then do something else ("I appreciate that there was some difficulty in your family this past month, perhaps you can get everything on track now.") leaving the managee to believe they have many more options and/or chances going forward and therefore making the task of letting them go more prolonged and more painful—for both of you.
3 - Cut The Connection ASAP
We've seldom seen a PIP (performance improvement program) lead to someone turning it around and being able to stay on the job. We're not saying never do it, but it's cleaner and more in keeping with fair treatment to let the person go, allowing HR to take care of the specific details, so that the person can get on with their professional life and you can move on to recruit a more appropriate replacement. The sooner you can come to the conclusion that the person will not ever be a good culture fit, the better for everyone involved.
The key to moving forward with less pain and considerably reduced use of your precious time is to remember that almost never do people change their stripes in order to fit in where they don't actually belong in the first place.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences with having to let misfits go.
Thanks to Judith Sherven, PhD / LinkedIn