You Made a Bad Hire — Now What? Here Are 3 Self-Reflective Practices Leaders Should Take to Overcome and Grow. Hiring is hard. Sometimes we get it wrong — which can be a tough pill to swallow. But it also presents an opportunity for us to self-reflect and grow.
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We've all been there. You hire people, partner with people, or trust someone with the precious gift that is your business venture. And they let you down. After you've invested your time, money, and, perhaps more importantly, your emotions into the relationship, what do you do when it all turns south and you can't take it anymore?
Asking for help for most entrepreneurs can cause anxiety. Bringing in an "outsider?" Eek! We tend to be an independent lot who can juggle and manage a myriad of tasks at once. Hiring someone to ease our workload isn't always a road easily traveled.
So, let's look at what you should do when that ugly speedbump of a bad hire pops up, and you have no option but to face it head-on. After all, ignoring it and hoping it would fix itself hasn't worked these past few weeks, has it?
In most cases, this type of situation comes from hiring someone specializing in an area you don't have expertise in, such as copywriting or technical backend integrations. You reach out to a handful of people asking for references. You dive into some calls, and more often than not, you hire a person you interview because you get along with them so well (and let's face it, it's tough to find the perfect person anymore).
They say the right things. They're full of energy and enthusiasm for your work, and you breathe a sigh of relief because the burden of responsibility has finally been lifted. You like this person and have high expectations.
You amble along as you share information while having great conversations and laughter. You can't wait for them to take over part of the workload and get things done as you envisioned.
- You have standards.
- You have preferences.
- You have a vision.
- You set a path to reach your goals.
Their fee (or salary) is paid upfront and immediately (because you generally hate when people don't do that), and the expectations timer kicks into action.
And then it happens. You face the reality that they don't get it. You still really like the person, but they don't seem able to deliver what you expected — or what they seemed capable of in the first place. The first instance you let slide. "It's a learning curve," right?
Perhaps it was a miscommunication. Maybe you weren't as focused on giving enough pertinent information for them to do the job. Or maybe, just maybe, they weren't capable from the start. And that is heartbreakingly disappointing.
It was hard enough to ask for help in the first place. But now, you don't have the results you expected, and, on top of that, you're out a boatload of your hard-earned money, you need to find someone else, and pay them even more of your hard-earned money to clean this mess up.
Your first knee-jerk reaction is emailing that person to release frustration and irritation. Because come on, you're annoyed and hurt if you're honest. You've invested personally and professionally in that person, and they let you down. Or did you let yourself down? That might be more disappointing!
So, what can you do with this current situation to save your mental health spiral of negativity, intense remorse at throwing away good money, and reflective finger-pointing and blame?
Here are three steps I take to overcome a disappointing hire:
1. Take responsibility
Your first step is to take accountability for your side of the equation. This is the hardest pill to swallow because it's the size of a submarine. But swallow you must. You're the one who chose to work with the person in the first place. I know you want to blame someone else, but you can't do that without also taking some of the blame.
I call this the "Red Flag Counter" philosophy. We all generally dismiss more red flags than we ought to. We like someone, so we let the first handful of gut-instinct red flags go without paying attention.
Then comes the non-gut instinct red flags. These are when behavior or actions are like neon signs flashing in your face. The work just isn't done well. Period. You had expectations that weren't met. That's a literal red flag.
It's time to stop letting so many of them pass by before halting the process and recalibrating.
But we like this person so much that we're distracted by their mutual love of your favorite TV show. Or perhaps the mere thought of starting over with the hiring process is exhausting and undesirable. Who has time?
By the time three or more red flags have been stuffed into a back closet, your irritation factor is only waiting on the sidelines to explode and at that point, remedial recovery may be too late.
2. Take a breath
Take several of them. You need oxygen because this scenario isn't an easy one to digest. But rest assured that there are ways to take away something positive from this seemingly hopeless and frustrating situation.
It would help to remind yourself that this isn't the end of the world. Stop for a few moments and remind yourself that if you can calm your body down with deep breathing, your emotions will also calm. A clear and focused mind is the best way to handle any disappointing situation. Our emotions tend to distract and muddy the waters making logic and common sense dissipate.
So, take a breath and accept that this is a picture you allowed to be painted. The other person may be at fault for not delivering, but you also had a hand in it. As an entrepreneur, we must be realistic about our role in any situation. With that awareness and perspective, you gain the skills to grow. Once calmed, you can move on to the next step.
3. Try to salvage the relationship
People are more important than a project. You'll have ongoing projects or tasks, but finding people you like gets harder and harder to come by as you get older.
I'm not saying you need to invite them to dinner every Friday night but find a way to calm down and make sure you know — and they know — that you still respect them as a fellow human being. It's not easy. Especially if you paid them and they didn't deliver.
I may not have chosen this as a step in the process, but there's been so much open hate and divisiveness in the world that we don't need more. Another interesting point of view is how small the business world tends to get the longer you're in it.
It's astonishing how paths can cross again later in time. My partner reconnects with people from decades ago and often strikes up a new working relationship or joint venture. The more you can salvage a relationship in the heat of a disruption, the more you'll have an open door as your business grows. Just because something didn't work out this time around doesn't mean it won't come back to work at a later date. After all, there was a reason you connected and hired this person in the first place.
It is time to let the basic foundation of human decency step back into the spotlight. And how better to start than with ourselves? After all, you got yourself into the mess and can get yourself out.
Related: 6 Tips for Hiring the Right People
4. Time for acceptance and learning
If you paid for a service, your money is gone. No one stole it from you or forced you to pay for it. There's always a moment when you need to look that decision in the face and accept that you made it and it can't be changed. You can't reinvent history, so why not learn from it? You decided to bring that person in, and you paid them.
Your time is gone (whether you paid or not). You can't get that time back no matter how many time-travel, sci-fi films or TV series you watch.
You're now sitting with your disappointment and need to get some value from it. The most significant value you'll get is learning a lifelong lesson not to make the same mistake again.
It would be best to attempt rectifying things and communicate that you think something went wrong. You should offer ideas on how to collectively work together so your expectations are better met — making sure theirs are also met.
But in the end, it didn't work. Many things in life don't. The disappointment of not getting what you wanted may sting. Ok, maybe the sensation is more like a severe burn! But it too shall pass, and your best bet is to let it go and move on (quickly) as you're fully equipped with new knowledge and insight on how to prevent it from happening again.
Grow with the process
Think deeply, assess the process, and see all things with clarity. Accept your role in the situation. Focus on profoundly understanding what went wrong and why (or how), and grow more powerful from a lesson painfully learned. Remember to hold your head high with the pride of putting another person's humanity into the solution.
Side note: If you hired someone to do a job and they flat out didn't deliver (versus them providing something different from what you expected or wanted), ask for a refund or partial refund. That's fair, also.
The best bet is to write out a detailed job description in advance. Send it to the applicant or your new hire and have them sign it. Have them initial each line item. That way, you have something you both can revisit if delivery is lacking.
As the saying goes — get on the same page. Getting on the same page upfront clears the way for great success flags, not red ones of a problem or white ones of surrender. Go get 'em!