What to Do When You’ve Made a Bad Hire

By Harvard Business Review
October 19, 2018

Sometimes, a change must be made. The sooner, the better. Here are three steps leaders can take to salvage a bad situation.

It happens: A candidate who had the right credentials, seemed to fly through the interview process and had lovely references turns out to be an unexpected problem after hiring.


According to a study of hiring managers by Leadership IQ, only 19% of new hires are considered fully successful and 46% are failures. Respondents mostly blamed poor interpersonal skills overlooked during the interview process. Here are their top five reasons hires don’t work out:

26% – Coachability. Able to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues, customers, etc.

23% – Emotional intelligence. Able to understand and manage emotions and assess others’ emotions.

17% – Motivation. Sufficient drive to achieve potential.

15% – Temperament. Attitude and personality suited to the job and environment.

11% – Technical competence. Functional or technical skills required for job.

The three-year study, reported in 2015, compiled responses from 5,247 hiring managers from 312 public, private, business and health care organizations.

Click here for more on the study.

Usually in these situations, it’s less costly to make a change. The sooner you make it, the better.

Although coping with the impact of a bad hire will never be easy, following these steps will help you recover and move on with the least possible damage to all parties.

Prepare for a direct, and probably uncomfortable, conversation with the new hire. Rather than hoping for the best or trying to deter a confrontation, leveling with the new hire about your dissatisfaction and his performance issues can open the way to joint problem-solving. 

To repair the situation, you can try focused feedback or reassignment. If you’re giving your employee lots of feedback, and you don’t see improvement and increased effort, you need to prepare to cut your losses. You should also identify the current and future expense of keeping the bad hire. In some situations, the negative impact on your team and overall business may make it impractical to invest in the person’s ongoing development. 

Make the case for an exception to the typical exit plan. If the relationship can’t be salvaged, look for every opportunity to make the transition and departure as smooth and graceful as possible. Start by considering whether you can negotiate a mutually beneficial plan. Offering severance and outplacement services will demonstrate to the unsuccessful employee and that person’s colleagues that you’re acting in good faith. 

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Management

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