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You Made a Bad Hire. Now What?

Realizing you made a hiring mistake can feel like a gut punch. You know you'll have to restart the time-consuming search and recruitment process, get your new hire up to speed and hope you don’t lose too much ground in the process.

You may ask yourself, “how did this happen?” and that’s a good question because there’s always something we can learn from mistakes. But the truth is there are any number of reasons why the person didn’t work out and even the best hiring managers make bad hires from time to time. 

Before we continue, it's important to note that it's best to exhaust all efforts to keep the employee before you let them go. But for this article, we're assuming that you've come to a clear decision on what needs to be done.

If you're at this point, here some suggested steps you can take to part ways peacefully and minimize the impact a bad hire has on your time and bottom line.

  1. Document the problem. Whether it’s poor performance or bad behavior, keeping a written record of what’s happening is essential. This should also include your correspondence on performance with the employee. You can’t expect someone to improve if they don’t realize they’re not living up to your standards. Keep in mind that your definition of “poor performance” or “bad behavior” have to align with the expectations you set when you hired them – or with changes in expectations you’ve communicated along the way.  Without documentation, you set yourself up for an improper termination lawsuit. 

  2. Act sooner rather than later. This is an unpleasant situation, and it’s only going to get worse as time passes. Once you've made the decision to let someone go, it's time to bite the bullet. Accept that you made a mistake and devise your plan of action. This can be hard, but you can also learn a lot to improve your process next time. 

  3. Make sure you comply with relevant laws and regulations. There are termination laws at the federal, state, and local level. They dictate things like when and how an employee has to receive their final paycheck, how and whether you have to document your reasons for letting them go, and whether you’re required to pay severance. They also lay out reasons you cannot use to justify a termination (including pregnancy and retaliation). If you don’t comply with these laws, you could have to pay fines. You also open yourself up to an improper termination lawsuit.

  4. Set up a thoughtful exit strategy. This should outline the practical matters of your employee’s departure: last day, where they leave their company issued property, how and when they take care of knowledge transfer, how you’ll communicate their departure to clients, when you’ll remove access to their work-related accounts, and so on. You'll want to loop in your HR people and any relevant managers to make sure you don’t forget anything. During this time, it's very important to treat the employee with the upmost compassion and respect - even if it's challenging. 

  5. Communicate with the rest of the team. On a small team, the loss of even one person can be disruptive. After the departure, bring your team together to regroup. It's important to clear the air and address any concerns that may be brewing. When an employee is let go, it can lead to a lot of unproductive gossip, so encourage people to speak freely and get a head of it as much as possible.  If you'e a company leader, it's good to get input from managers; use this feedback to evolve your hiring process. Parting ways with a bad hire can be painful, but it can also be an excellent learning experience, if you take the time to think about what went wrong.

Enlisting Help to Make the Process Easier

Letting an employee go is never easy and the regulations that businesses have to follow make it risky to get the terminations wrong. If you need help making sure that you're following best practices from a compliance and risk-mitigation standpoint, reach out to us. We'll help make sure your company follows applicable laws and your (ex-)employee gets fair treatment.