Employee Performance: When a Good Hire Turns into a Bad Hire

By: Roberta Matuson

Everyone tries to hire the best, although sometimes things don’t work out as planned. If you are in business long enough, you will experience situations where a good hire turns into a bad hire due to circumstances you could not have predicted, resulting in a hiring mistake.

Here are five questions to consider as you weigh your options.

1. Can this situation be turned around? Sometimes you can pinpoint the exact moment that an employee’s performance has taken a turn for the worst. Perhaps it was the day an employee’s spouse filed for divorce or when you fired the employee’s boss and left him to fend on his own. In situations like these, it makes sense to try to get the employee back on track, particularly if they have proven themselves to be a valuable employee.

Determine what level of support is needed to get the employee on back on track. If it’s a personal situation, you may suggest the employee seek outside counseling or reach out to your Employee Assistance Plan, if your company offers this benefit, for guidance. Also be aware that ADAAA employer guidelines include a number of mental health disabilities, including depression and other disorders.

If the matter is related to the organizational structure, determine what may be getting in the way of the employee from being successful and make changes where appropriate. If need be, consider hiring a coach to help your employee get on track.

2. How will your decision impact the rest of the team? In small businesses, where team members rely heavily on each other, the loss of just one member can send the team in a downward spiral. Of course the same thing can happen if you allow those who are considered “weak links” to remain in their positions.

Business owners must carefully weigh the pros and cons of releasing an employee before simply handing them a final paycheck.

Factors to consider include the impact this person’s negative performance is having on the overall operation, employee morale and the company’s reputation; the availability of staff to pick up the workload before a suitable replacement has been found.

Finally, consider the fallout that might occur, particularly if this employee is well-liked among co-workers.

3. Is your decision likely to end up in a lawsuit? Some days it feels like you can’t win no matter what you do, as we live in a litigious society. You may be subject to a lawsuit if you terminate an employee who feels they have been wrongfully discharged.

The same thing can happen if you fail to take action. For example, allowing an employee who is creating a hostile work environment to remain in your employ can result in a sexual harassment lawsuit for the company.

You can minimize the risk of being sued by clearly communicating and documenting employee performance that does not meet the company standards.

The key is to document in writing all conversations regarding performance issues and to make sure you tell the employee exactly what will happen should they contain to perform at substandard levels or if their behavior doesn’t change. In cases of sexual harassment, it’s always best to consult with counsel and to follow their recommendations.

As always, keeping up with employee performance reviews will give you a legal footing and clearer picture of performance issues over time.

4. How can I minimize the disruption among the staff that will be remaining? No matter what you do, there will be some disruption among the remaining staff. The key is to minimize this disruption. Here are some ways you can do this.

If you have a good idea that an employee is no longer working out and additional training is not the answer, then have a Plan B in place.

This may mean cross training another team member so he or she can quickly step in when the other person steps out. Or you may need to reschedule your vacation to pick up the slack.

Understand that the team will need time to process the changes. Keep this in mind when deciding on a date and time to terminate the relationship with a staff member. For instance, if you’ve got an important client presentation on Tuesday, then try not to release a poor performer the day prior.

5. Is it possible to fire someone gently? There are certainly ways to graciously fire an employee so that they leave with their ego in tact.

This includes choosing a private area to have this discussion, rather than conducting the meeting in the lunchroom just before break time. Allowing an employee the option to resign is also another way to gently release someone from the firm. In the end, does it really matter who broke up with whom?

Giving the terminated employee time to collect their thoughts prior to walking them out of your office can also help soften the blow.

If possible, try to avoid the two-security guy escort that is all too common. It’s easy to steal company secrets these days and if the employee (who most likely knows his time was up) was going to do so, they would have done it already.

There are benefits to employee turnover, although it may not seem like this when you are in the midst of a termination. Making room for fresh air and new ideas can actually be a good thing.

When all is said and done, be sure to take some time to breathe before moving forward.

© 2012 Matuson Consulting LLC. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Matuson Consulting and author of the forthcoming, The Magnetic Workplace (Nicholas Brealey, 2013) and the highly acclaimed book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, a Washington Post Top-5 Leadership pick. Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, Talent Maximizer.