Complaints About Your Hires?
Consider the Consequences!
By Francie Dalton
see – there must be a way to do it – to convince yourself that
everyone else is wrong about the quality of your hires. To reassure
yourself that your “personal picks” aren't mistakes, even though the
criticisms are numerous, repetitive and fierce. You could overtly
ignore the complaints. Or you could pretend to listen politely, and
then discount the input. You could attribute the complaints to
petty jealousy and competitiveness. Or you could decide in advance
that any opinion other than your own is invalid per se.
chose any of the above methods, here’s what you’re communicating to
your employee base: that you protect those you hire, even if they're
shown to be incompetent; that your ego prevents you from admitting
that you made a bad hire even when it’s obvious to everyone else;
that when your hires erode productivity or generate disabling
conflict, you turn a blind eye and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge
is it that provokes and then sustains your cognitive choice to
remain deaf and blind to complaints about the performance of your
hires? One reason might be that you're convinced that your
truth is the truth – an arrogant but prevalent belief among
self-confident, successful professionals. You trust your own
opinions over those of others, and are loathed to base your actions
on their complaints. Or it could be that you're intolerant of
any complaint - regardless of its nature - expecting employees
to solve their squabbles without involving you.
another reason could be that whenever you're under attack, you dig
in your heels and become even more recalcitrant, refusing to
reconsider. Indeed, in some ways, you’re invigorated by the
challenge, and become even more intent on prevailing. Or maybe the
way you lead and make decisions is based solely on your gut
instincts. That is, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, you
follow your own emotional compass.
one or more of these reasons is true of you, it may be hard to
acknowledge the fact. So let’s look at a few scenarios to see if
any are illustrative of your hiring history.
Everywhere you've worked in recent years, you've taken Joe with you.
He has been your right arm, your confidant, your most crucial
resource, your workhorse and your disciple. Others complain that
he's a complete and total social clod, consistently alienating key
audiences. However, his utility and devotion to you are such that
you're willing to take the hits.
You're unalterably convinced that Jack is a real star. You've
worked with him for years in various organizations and are certain
he's a great employee. His
entire peer group, though, is telling you otherwise. He's
incompetent, they say. What gets done in his department is
accomplished by his subordinates who are in constant fear of him.
Using tantrums and intimidation to cover up his ineptitude, he
belittles and bullies them into producing whatever is expected of
him. But his ultimate outcomes are consistently stellar, and you
can't bring yourself to subordinate his deliverables to the hurt
feelings of others.
since you hired Jill, you've heard nothing but complaints about her
lack of productivity. Peers say that she's a serious bottleneck,
slowing everything down, and making progress impossible. Her work
products are so late, you're told, that by the time she delivers
them the need has long since passed, and any opportunity associated
with requests made of her have disappeared. You, however, recognize
high intellect in this woman, and you’re energized by it, even if
it’s not accompanied by outcomes. So you protect her.
You're beholden to Jane. She literally saved the organization from
financial ruin; or she stepped in and took the hit that you
deserved; or she greased the skids such that you were able to
succeed, or she found a way to protect you from embarrassment. You
feel a tremendous sense of indebtedness to her, and aren’t willing
to abandon her - not even for cause.
is literally no position open for the person you’ve decided to
hire. Indeed, there isn’t even office space available. But you
have the power to bring this person on board, so you use it. You
make the hire without regard for HR processes, organizational fit,
impacts on others, etc. simply because you want to, and, frankly
because you can.
Stubbornly retaining or vigorously defending your hires despite
repeated grievances from colleagues doesn’t usually turn out well
for anyone involved. Even when your hires deserve your support, or
when the complaints are based on perception rather than on fact,
there comes a point when the fallout from keeping your hire is worse
than starting over. If your high-level hire hasn’t been able to
neutralize complaints fairly quickly, if key personnel remain
resentful, designing artful ways to work around your hire, then
perhaps the following might be reasonable options.
this individual work from home, or become a contract employee?
this individual be deployed in some other way within the
organization such that his/her weaknesses/antagonistic
characteristics aren’t featured?
you redesign work flow such that the need for collaboration is
an executive coach be helpful to this individual and/or to those
who work with this person?
a professional interventionist negotiate agreement among the
feuding parties to stabilize working relationships?
you establish criteria, which define how you expect your
subordinates to collaborate, and then hold all of them
accountable for compliance with these methods?
of these options seem appropriate, perhaps it’s time to accept that
a particular hire isn’t going to make it in your organization.
Continuous efforts to force the fit, or to persist in the deliberate
choice to remain deaf and blind to complaints, won’t insulate you;
instead, you’ll likely be putting yourself in the unenviable
position of presiding over a long, slow, painful death. If what
others tell you about your hire is radically different from your own
opinion, realize that something isn’t right! When remedial
efforts aren’t successful after a reasonable period of time, stop
limping along in a suboptimal state; make the tough decision you’re
paid to make, and move on.
Read other articles and learn more
about Francie Dalton.
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