What to do when you discover you have hired a bad apple

Here, Melanie Astbury looks at the prevention and cure strategies for company hires that misfire.

Even though we do our best to hire the right people and create a positive office environment, having to deal with a difficult employee is an inevitable part of every manager’s life.

In an ideal world, every member of your team would be cheerful, motivated and would demonstrate they know the direction the company wants to go. In reality, you are likely to encounter team members who fail to meet these standards.

It may be a lack of ability to communicate with customers or colleagues, poor organisational skills or some character trait not picked up at interview. No one likes to deal with these types of problems, but having a difficult member of staff can be corrosive to your business and needs to be addressed.

While you simply can’t fire someone after you realise they are not the right person, don’t be held hostage and waste important time or emotional energy thinking about how to deal with the situation. There is lots of expert advice out there to help you.

Speak to ACAS

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service is an organisation designed to help prevent and resolve workplace disputes, for both employees and employers. Its website www.acas.org.uk has lots of useful tips for maintaining a happy and comfortable work environment. Alternatively, ACAS advisers are available to talk you through a wide variety of disciplinary procedures. If you need additional advice and support, call them on 08457 474747, 8am-8pm Mon to Fri and 9am-1pm Sat.

Seek legal advice

Knowing exactly where you stand legally before embarking on any discussions or disciplinary measures with an employee is critical. If you have an HR department in-house or are able to call on a consultant, this should be your first port of call. If you don’t, then a specialist employment lawyer is another option. While talking to a solicitor can be expensive, this investment will give you a definitive set of grievance, disciplinary and conduct rules and let you know exactly what is and isn’t possible. Going about it the wrong way could end up costing you even more.

Of course, you will want to avoid this kind of situation in the first place. Here are some things to bear in mind that should help you avoid falling into the trap of hiring a bad apple.

Hire carefully

We have introduced several measures to ensure every employee is evaluated before they sign any contact. All our candidates go through a psychometric testing process. While the exact tests vary depending on the position, we always include maths, English and problem solving assessments. A candidate can perform brilliantly in an interview, but you still need to know their ability to read, write or follow a process.

Monitor performance

We use a temp-to-perm period with new employees. This helps both parties test each other out and helps the most motivated individuals stand out as they strive to prove their worth and earn a full-time position. Even after they have progressed, always ensure you are on top of how everyone is performing. If you spot a drop in anyone’s standard or application of work, flag this up straight away. If your concerns are not addressed formally, the person won’t be given the opportunity to improve and things are unlikely to get any better. By doing things officially, you will have a formal record of a poor history and will be able to take the necessary steps to make changes.

Use the probationary period

All new employees go through a probationary period. If you have to let someone go, the end of his or her probation is the easiest time to do it. Make sure you hold an exit interview so you can let them know why you’re not continuing their employment. Remember, if you’re letting someone go for behavioural reasons, stay professional and stick to the facts.

Know when to cut your losses

To have established your own business, chances are you are a good judge of character and you know that very few people change in this life. At some point with a bad employee, you have to know when to cut your losses for the good of the business and the rest of the team. Firing someone is the hardest thing managers have to do, but you can’t let one bad apple be the undoing of a business you’ve sweated blood to build up. Your company is only as good as the people you employ.

Melanie Astbury is HR Manager at Office Kitten

Further reading on hiring staff

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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