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We’ve all done it. Whether in our personal lives or with employees, we ignore or downplay negative traits until they pile up to the point of it being a crisis. Giving people the benefit of the doubt is an admirable quality, but there are some warning signs that you’ve made a bad hire and you may need to consider cutting your losses and moving on before they damage your business. If a new employee has a few challenges a first, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are beyond hope. However, if a new employee has a lot of challenges and doesn’t show the energy and drive to move beyond them and improve their performance, it should get your attention. Keep these warning signs in mind.

1. Difficulty adapting
It’s normal for there to be an adjustment period when someone comes into a new job. Not everyone adapts to change in the same way and on the same timeline, but a prolonged struggle can indicate that they may not be able to thrive in dynamic environments. If someone doesn’t seem to understand the role or meet your basic expectations in the first 60 days, it’s a red flag.

2. Frequent mistakes
Frequent errors in work beyond what is reasonable can be a sign of a poor fit. Everyone makes mistakes, but a pattern of repeating mistakes without discernable improvement may indicate a lack of attention to detail or poor work habits.

3. Consistently missed deadlines
Things happen and we can’t always meet deadlines or deliver on promises. Beware of a new hire who consistently misses the mark, particularly if they fail to communicate it to you and your team. This is a strong indicator that they lack the time management skills required for the job.

4. Poor communication
Be alert to communication issues. Whether failing to convey information or misunderstanding instructions, poor communication can lead to confusion and conflict. No matter your business, employees must be able to set clear expectations and communicate clearly. This is a much more serious problem if it crosses the line into untruthfulness and should prompt you to act immediately.

5. Lack of accountability
Failure to take responsibility when things don’t go right will erode trust and impede progress and productivity. Your new hire should be able to own their mistakes rather than always having an excuse or blaming others.

6. Negative attitudes or frequent conflict
Pessimism and negativity are toxic to team morale and can trickle throughout your business. Watch out for gossiping, disparaging remarks, snarky comments, disrespect, and frequent clashes with colleagues which point to a problem with interpersonal skills or an inability to collaborate effectively. Be especially quick to act when these behaviors cross the line into threats or aggression.

7. Poor cultural fit
Cultural fit plays a significant role in a candidate’s long-term success with your company. Watch for signs that the new employee is struggling to integrate into your team, or they don’t seem to buy in to the company’s norms and core values.

8. Unwillingness to learn
Successful hires contribute not only to the present but also the future of your organization. Resisting opportunities for growth or showing an aversion to learning new things is another red flag. Someone who doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t complete available training, or who fails to keep up with changes in your company or industry will inevitably fail to evolve in their role.

9. Minimal initiative and engagement
A new employee who is disconnected from team discussions and doesn’t contribute ideas or exhibit enthusiasm is likely not going to help you make progress toward your goals. You may also notice that they only contribute the bare minimum and don’t take on new responsibilities. Frequent absences and a general lack of effort are warning signs of a lack of ambition and engagement.

Now what?

Realizing that you may have made a bad hire is not the end of the world, but it is a situation that must be dealt with directly and objectively. Empathy and open communication can go a long way in creating a positive outcome, even if that outcome is that you ultimately decide to part ways.

1. Evaluate
Is the issue a result of a skills gap, cultural misfit, misunderstanding, or perhaps obstacles that are beyond the employee’s control? Has the new hire been provided all of the tools and training necessary to do the job? Are they receiving appropriate support? Look at the situation objectively and rule out any internal issues that may be putting the new hire at a disadvantage.

2. Communicate
Have a private conversation with the employee and approach the conversation with compassion and patience. Explain your observations and really listen to their explanations, insights, and concerns.

3. Provide Feedback & Set Clear Expectations
Give specific examples of how they are missing the mark and areas that need improvement. Offer constructive feedback and suggestions for progress while conveying your belief in their potential to improve. Provide written documentation of your discussion that includes a timeline and benchmarks to measure progress. Be sure they also know what resources are available to them in support of this effort.

4. Monitor Progress
Regularly touching base lets your employee know that you are invested in their progress and they have the accountability to keep going. Address setbacks and ongoing problems but be sure to also celebrate wins and offer praise for work well done.

5. Re-Evaluate
Once you reach the end of the established timeline, evaluate whether there has been significant improvement. Notice we said significant, not sufficient – we’re not trying to grow mediocre employees, but high performers! Positive changes show you that they are making progress even if they still have a way to go.

Do you have a challenging employee situation that you need help navigating?

We can help. Call on STM today!

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