Tech & Work

Dealing with a poor hire

When you find that you've made a mistake in hiring a tech manager, you must decide whether to fire the manager or try to live with the decision. Learn how best to handle the scenario and possibly avoid it next time.


The difficult task of hiring is made even more arduous when you’re working with tight budgets; there’s little room for error because of fewer recruiting initiatives and leaner staffs. You don’t have room for dead weight. But sometimes, even with good evaluation and hiring efforts, CIOs can find themselves acknowledging they’ve made a poor IT management hire.

In this situation, you have a decision to make—try to fix the situation and live with it, or fire the manager and start the hiring process all over again.

How did we get to this point?
One of the most common ways this situation occurs is when, in the interview, the CIO or VP of IT zooms in on a candidate’s background and technical credentials rather than what he or she will actually want the new manager to do.

Many of us create a list of key skills and previous experiences when hiring staff, but don’t actually list the tasks or accomplishments we want the ideal candidate to undertake once we hire them. It’s a good idea to do so because it helps you compare a candidate’s experience to the job requirements.

Ask yourself some tough questions before making a hire:
  • Are you looking for someone with a specific certification? Is that all that’s needed to perform the job?
  • Do you evaluate candidates that have actual hands-on experience and see if there’s a good match to the specific job you need done?

Certifications and achievements are a great foundation, but they cannot be the primary hiring factor. Defining actual potential tasks and goals for the candidate, vs. technical certification and previous job titles, is more effective in the hiring process.

What do we do now?
Over a year ago, I was involved in a search for an IT manager with broad experience. We hired a person we thought was a good fit. But just four weeks later, it was evident that all the fluff on the resume and the letters of recommendation were missing a critical element—experience for the role we wanted this new hire to take on. The eventual heated firing created an urgent need for immediate IT support, which we got from a temporary staffing company—an added expense.

The termination process wouldn't have been so stressful if we had had strong job description documentation to follow during the hiring process. Documentation is also a key element for detailing an employee's job performance and is necessary when you have to address adjustments to job requirements, employee reassignment, or the termination action.

So from the start of a new hire—document, document, document. And, at the first sign of trouble—that initial realization that the new manager isn’t working well—move quickly to adjust and improve the situation. The first step is sitting down, one on one, with the new manager and doing the following:
  • Reestablish the original goals/tasks for the manager with adjusted timeframes, and work to solve any issues the new hire may be experiencing.
  • Get the new manager’s agreement and understanding of these goals with signed documentation.
  • Give the manager specific standards to meet, and advise him or her that if improvement isn’t shown within a specific period, the result could be termination.
  • Assign deadlines and track job performance, either through weekly meetings or weekly document updates.
  • Monitor performance and provide solid written feedback during this probationary time.
  • Keep close tabs on the employee’s file if other department managers are involved—take notice of absentee forms, disciplinary slips, and letters/memos of performance issues.

What’s next if that fails
The above efforts may not produce the needed results and you may find yourself considering terminating the employee. That’s not an easy decision, especially since the manager may be integrally involved with projects and filling a role for which there will be no handy substitute. But allowing the employee to stay on can have a negative effect on a tech team and business goals, from poor morale issues to a lower level of customer service.

You have two basic options to consider for the termination:
  • Arrange with HR to allow the employee to leave with a basic reference and a small severance package. This allows the fired employee to not be “officially” fired and avoid having to explain the termination during future job interviews.
  • Terminate the employee in a meeting with HR involved, presenting the tasks the manager failed to achieve from the revamped performance review.

Be careful of your words. Proper wording and verbal expression is vital to a smooth and calm termination. Whatever you do, don’t get emotional—a calm reasonable attitude is always the best way to present termination to an employee.

Inappropriate termination terminology
The National Institute of Business Management has compiled a list of expressions an employer should avoid using when firing an employee:
  •  “I’m so sorry about this.”
  • “It’s not my decision to fire you. My boss made me do it.”
  • “You know the company is all messed up.”
  • “Let me give you my advice on what you should do next.”
  • “You never really had a chance here.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “You’ve really let me down.”
  • “I hate to say this, but…”
  • “This is a blessing in disguise.”


Make sure the manager understands that the termination is final. Sometimes, the employee may petition for a second chance or be willing to make a concession, such as taking a lower-level job opportunity. Make it very clear that the manager is no longer employed at the company.

Having HR present and conducting the interview in a private office with no chance of interruption is essential to ensuring that the termination is done professionally and with minimal emotional outburst or physical confrontation.

Lessons learned
After you’ve terminated the manager, get on the right track to ensure your next hiring effort is more successful. It’s a great time to review and refine the interviewing and hiring process and evaluate what you might have missed in the previous candidate evaluation process. Also, check that your screening process is not at fault or in need of updating.

Consider getting more insight by having a senior member for the team or even another department manager assist with the interviewing process. During the next hiring process, remember:
  • Certifications are important but you must find out what practical application the candidate has used them for. For example, a candidate may have a project management certification, but that certification may not meet your organization’s needs for the position in question.
  • Former titles are a great way to generally classify potential hires but find out what results they had within that job. While Help Desk Manager is a great title, dig in and determine what practical operational duties were performed.

 

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