The application and resume were flawless. The interview was perfect. The job candidate checked all of your boxes (literally and figuratively), wowed the team, and seemed like an ideal addition to the organization.
But now, you’re wondering if you made a mistake — because this new person isn’t meeting your expectations. What do you do now?
First, realize that people learn and perform at different levels. “Some employees perform better than others for many reasons, and one factor can certainly be skill set,” according to Jessica Jensen, global director of marketing at Qualcomm. “The more skilled a person is at their job from the beginning, the easier it will be for them to accomplish a lot in a day, but also do it with grace and confidence.”
However, since skills can be taught, Jensen says eventually all employees should be performing at the same level (all things being equal) – but this doesn’t always happen.
The next consideration is intent. “Does an employee have the will or fortitude to make a difference at work?” Jensen asks. “What is their intention each morning when they wake up?”
“This latter group will often need coaching, confidence building, and mentoring from leadership to build them into a change maker,” she explains. However, there’s another group to consider. Jensen says these are the people who just want to come to work and do a job for a specified period of time, and then go home to have dinner with their family and watch Netflix on the sofa.
“I believe this third group is the most challenging to motivate, because for them, work is a job,” Jensen says. “It is not a definition of who they are or a path to make their mark on the world.”
However, even these employees are not a lost cause. Jensen believes that inspirational leaders and camaraderie with coworkers can motivate them. And because these types of workers are so dispassionate, she believes they would make excellent moderators and negotiators.
It’s also important to be honest and objective when you find yourself let down by a new hire. “Identify specific reasons why they are a disappointing hire,” advises Simma Lieberman, a Berkeley, CA-based workplace inclusion expert. Examine any biases to ensure that you’re not disappointed for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the job. For example, if they like to drink and party, but you don’t, this is not a valid reason to be disappointed — unless these activities affect their work performance. On the other hand, maybe they’re very religious, and you’re not. Again, this is a personal difference.
Sometimes, managers and leaders have a “this is the way I want it done” mentality that is completely based on personal preferences. But just because you wouldn’t have done it that way doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
If you’ve determined that your concerns are valid, Lieberman recommends having an honest, direct conversation in which you provide feedback regarding their performance. She says it’s critical to support the employee as they get better. However, if they don’t get better, Lieberman says you ultimately need to let them go — and learn from the experience.
“If you were the one who made the decision to hire them, revisit the reasons for your decision,” she says. “Determine whether there were signs you missed and think about what you could have done differently.”