You Made a Bad Hire. Now what?

Posted by Julie • December 10, 2015 (Last modified June 6, 2022) • 4 min read

Say it isn’t so: Red flags with your new employee, within the first three to six months.  Maybe you did everything right — you interviewed, you checked references, your team was involved, and still, it’s not working.

Sometimes it’s obvious. Want to know what issues are most commonly seen? The person you hired spends more time on Facebook than learning the job early on, when new hires are usually at their best. Attendance issues surface right away — missed meetings or too many absences. Or the new person just isn’t getting along with others.

One company executive told a hiring story about bringing on a person the team had agreed upon, a person the team needed. The employee missed meetings early on, failed to participate in trainings, and spent a lot of time on Twitter. Each team member had noticed various issues, but was scared to bring it up to the others for fear of crossing another’s opinion. When the team finally connected, it was clear the new hire wasn’t cutting it. The company took action early, but it wasn’t without consequence. Re-interviewing, retraining, and rebuilding team morale were all setbacks.

Another executive tells the story of an employee hired in the early stages of the company. The new hire did his/her best to perform, but wanted the company to have policies and procedures for everything. The company was young! They needed the employee to help to build policies and procedures. This led to frustration on both sides. Mismatch!

Other times, it’s murkier. One manager told the story of a new hire that got along well with others, so much that others hadn’t noticed the work issues yet. “Joe is a super fun guy!” Things had happened that the manager couldn’t share with the team and when the employee was let go, others feared for their jobs (they needn’t have, but they couldn’t see the whole picture).


Think you’ve made a bad hire? What choices do you have?

  1. Let ’em go. Do it early, cut your losses, and find someone new. If you don’t,here’s the bottom line: You’ll spend a significant amount of your time managing the poor performer, and you might have to do damage control with your team. Take action early and you might just protect your team and your reputation. Wait too long, and you might lose the trust of your team, and they’ll resent you for letting the new person slide.
  2. Give it time. Maybe with more time, the person will be able to perform at the job. But let’s be honest — the longer you wait, the more you’ve invested. And, new hires are usually at their best. If performance is an issue early on, it’s likely to continue.
  3. Are you the problem? If you haven’t provided training or onboarding, or you’ve been too busy to nurture the employee, maybe you need to step up your game. Re-engage. Usually, there is fault on both sides. If the employee fails to ask for help (and goes on Twitter instead) this can be a sign of the employee’s initiative. You shouldn’t have to ask an employee to be an active participant in their learning.
  4. Give the person a second chance. This *can* be good, but makes sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Keeping the wrong person affects everyone.
  5. Own your mistake. Whether you skipped steps in hiring or checked everything and it still didn’t work — just say so. If you skipped steps: well, don’t skip them next time. If you hurried to hire, own the reasons you hurried. Maybe competing pressures forced the gamble.  
  6. Remediate, with a PIP (performance improvement plan.) Honestly, who wants to remediate a new hire? If you’ve got to do it, document everything.
  7. Transfer the person to a new role. Maybe the person will thrive in a different environment. Just be sure you aren’t passing a problem employee to someone else, or risk damaging good relationships internally.
  8. Re-examine your hiring practices. Define the job, gather the right people, check for skill fit and cultural fit, and always check references.
  9. Start documenting. A colleague told a story about an employee who was potentially dangerous. The employee had a temper and was prone to outbursts. This is obviously more extreme than general performance issues but nevertheless, document early and often.

Now, make the right hire. Manage expectations with your new hire early and often.


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