You’re fired! Those are words many of us dread to hear! That’s why you work hard at your job. However, not everyone has that same work ethic. Some are out for power, some are solely out for their own self interests. Some are downright unethical. At best you’re on the outside looking in wondering ‘how do they still have a job?’ At worst, you’re square in the path of their wrath, leaving your company wondering ‘how did we lose another good employee?’ So, why do bad employees seem to stick around?
When I first started working at big car company, my area manager told me I couldn’t be fired unless I did something unethical. He told me this ‘so I would feel comfortable doing a great job!’ No, that’s not the reason, the real reason is because big car did not want to pay unemployment benefits. Big car company only fired for ‘misconduct’, so they wouldn’t have to pay out unemployment benefits. The worst, for them, was paying someone a salary for not working for them. BizFilings goes into a bit more depth about unemployment issues in their article The Unemployment System: How it Works and When to Contest a Claim
So…they just hung onto bad employees?
Um…yes and no. Yes, they did hang onto bad employees, but they tried to just make them quit. That’s not uncommon in retail actually. At big car company, you didn’t lose your hours necessarily, (because they were so desperate for workers) but they gave you awful tasks to do, and put you into positions to fail. They also made you attend evening sales ‘training’ meetings if you didn’t meet your sales quotas.
Why do companies do this?!?
In large companies, it can be very difficult to fire employees. There is a lot of red tape you have to go through so that the company can avoid a wrongful termination law suit. You have to have x number of write ups before termination will be considered. In addition, paying a former employer a salary of any kind to not work for them can seem like a waste. However, this is a very short sighted take on dealing with bad employees. It cost them more in the long run to operate like that.
The hidden costs of bad employees
The cost of a bad employee may not be immediately evident. But, the costs are very high! and the damage can be very bad. Inc. had more reasons to fire a bad employee on Why You Need to Fire Bad Employees Right Now
When I worked at big coffee company one of my supervisors did an excellent job at killing the morale at that store. I actually asked my manager not to schedule me with him. They had tried to get rid of him in a more subtle way he had applied for manager three times, and was shot down all three times. However, he just kept coming back. Many people quit, transferred, or asked not to be scheduled with him, he was very difficult to work with. This cost the company unnecessary money and time. It killed the morale of that branch, because they had to put up with him. Overall, it was more costly to keep him, than to pay him unemployment benefits.
A bad employee can do a lot of damage to your company reputation. I talked about it briefly here.
When I was at big car company, my area manager did not like my bad boss. With good reason! He was only showing up 20 hours a week, and when he was there, he wasn’t very productive. Not to mention our accounts didn’t like him very much. But, my area manager didn’t have any misconduct on him, so he transferred him out of his area. He kept up his same behavior and ruined the reputation of another store. Honestly, his unemployment benefits would have cost less, than the cost of the accounts, we lost because of him.
Turnover is expensive, especially if its a good employee! There’s the advertisement, the time it takes to pre-screen and interview candidates, the background checks, training the list goes on. Replacing employees who leave is expensive. The manager is sometimes left going ‘we have all the great benefits, and the pay is good, I don’t understand why they left?’ This article by Forbes explains it well People Leave Managers, not Companies.
How can I prevent hiring a bad employee?
If you’ve had a bad hire do some damage to your business, you can be a bit gun shy to hire someone else! I understand I really do, but don’t let that one person derail you. Finding good workers is not a crap shoot, but it just takes a little strategy.
Skills are one thing, but behavior and cultural fit is a different beast all together. Harvard business review has many great questions in this article that I’ll touch on: How to Avoid Hiring a Toxic Employee
I’m a huge fan of the behavioral questions, that can help determine if that person is a good cultural fit. You can sometimes trip up a potential bad fit with some of these.
What kind of people do you find it most difficult to work with? Tell me about a time when you’ve found it difficult to work with someone. How did you handle it? (HBR)
I like this questions, because it is not one you see a lot, so you can get an answer ‘on the fly’. Conflict is never fun, but you’re looking for a candidate who tried to solve it in a civil manner. Speaking with the other person to see how to make it the working relationship work. Keeping a paper trail of everything going on. If the other person was unwilling to cooperate, then did they go to the manager? Your looking for someone who kept their reputation in tact and did the right thing through the whole ordeal. If they retaliated or stooped to the other persons level, that person is not a good fit. What would they do at your company?
Does the candidate take responsibility for behaviors, results, and outcomes, or do they blame others? (HBR)
This ties into the conflict question. The candidate can only control what he or she does. They can’t control the behavior of the other person. Do they take responsibility of this? When they have failed, do they take responsibility of their part and learn from it, and improve? If they blame everyone else, its time to move on. Admitting fault can be hard, but necessary to move forward and learn. Failure to do that shows lack of maturity. Do you really want that on your team?
It’s important to get many different perspectives on a candidate. One of your co-workers might see a red flag that you don’t, and visa versa. There could be a hidden bias you didn’t even realize. You wouldn’t want that clouding your judgement.
Believe it or not, learning how to spot a liar was a part of my management concentration. It was one of the most valuable things I learned in business school! There are a number of ways out there (one is an automatic facial ‘expression’ that occurs when someone is lying). Inc. has a great article to catch a liar in the act. An FBI Agent’s 8 Ways to Spot a Liar
I truly think these could beneficial in any interview. Referrals are your candidates business friends. The former employer is only allowed to say if the person worked there. You may or may not be able to find someone in the industry that knows this person. But, if you can catch a liar, you will nip the risk of a bad hire in the bud.
I’ve been there. I really have! Bad hires can be so destructive, and costly! I’ve had to clean up the messes, and I’ve been in the center of that conflict it is no fun! I’m confident that with a few of these tools in your tool belt, you can prevent hiring a bad employee! However, if your at the dismal point where you need to fire a bad employee, just rip off the bandage, and don’t procrastinate. It’s tough, but you can do it. For the sake of your business it’s essential. You will recover and find someone else 🙂 I’m pullin’ for ya!