Failure

How This Company Bounced Back After a Toxic Hire

It takes time, but it's possible.
How This Company Bounced Back After a Toxic Hire
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This story appears in the November 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

"Culture fit" is the Holy Grail of hiring, but when Tracy Lawrence launched the catering startup Chewse, in 2011, she gave experience an inflated importance.

Related: How One Entrepreneur Survived Five Years of Errors

“We’re really into transparency and talking truth to power, but we didn’t always have a way to vet it,” she says. That led to a toxic hire: someone with crazy-impressive skills and market chops but a passive-aggressive streak. Fast-forward six months and the Chewse culture was marked by whispered unease and gossip.

“We couldn’t even pinpoint why everything felt so wrong at first, until another employee brought it to our attention,” she says. Though parting ways with the bad hire was quick enough, righting the culture took more time.

Related: This Startup Launched Without Titles Or an Organizational Structure. Here's What They're Doing Now. 

Now Lawrence makes sure that culture questions -- Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss. What’s the most difficult conversation you’ve had with your manager? -- are in every interview. “Even from the first hiring phone call, we’re up front about our culture,” she says. “If giving honest feedback or getting hugs doesn’t work for you, you shouldn’t work here.” 

Edition: December 2016

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