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Five Stages of Grief Over a Bad Hire

Posted By: Brookwoods Group on October 29, 2014

5 stages of hiring griefHOUSTON — October 29, 2014 — Your company values its culture and mission, so hiring someone who’s not the right fit can be gut-wrenching. Several business books, including “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, talk about the value of hiring the right people to jump on your proverbial bus and making sure they are in the right seat. So it’s not surprising that there’s an emotional drain — much akin to grief — when a capable new hire turns out to be not a good cultural fit for the department or company.

Brookwoods Group, a leading recruiter and staffing company for marketing and communications professionals in Houston, Texas, has identified the five stages of grief that managers may experience when the wrong person has been hired.

Stage One: Denial

Every new hire has a honeymoon stage. Your new guy onboards, bringing an impressive track record and credentials that make his arrival seem like the arrival of the marketing messiah. For two and a half months, you’re a genius. How did you find such an amazing employee, you rascal? Then something happens. It may be a little thing like he picks a fight with a colleague or ignores direction. You refer back to his résumé and credentials. Perhaps he just needs the issue brought to his attention and everything will be better. You talk with him. He is contrite and promises “never again.”

Stage Two: Anger

After 90 days, he’s made it beyond the probation period. Now the situation gets complicated. Suddenly, more incidents are being reported. Someone caught him playing games on his iPad during a meeting. He completely botched the metrics analysis he was assigned last week. He wanted to use a mini stuffed cow as a giveaway at a trade show in India. You’re quickly coming to the realization that he’s falling short of expectations. You feel betrayed … lied to … even outraged! How could you have been so wrong? Now you have to start the human resources process. Reprimand. Write up reports. Document, document, document …Ugh! You want to march right down to his office and get rid of him now! But …

Stage Three: Bargaining

Maybe he’s not that bad. I mean, he presented himself as a rock star, and you still believe he’s got potential. Okay, perhaps a formal reprimand with a side of “last chance” will do the trick and get him back on track. Maybe he was just having a bad day … or a bunch of bad days ... and didn’t mean to use all those four-letter words in that email … uh … emails. At least he used open em dashes instead of closed hyphens. Maybe he’ll be okay. He promises that he’ll change.

Stage Four: Depression

Who are you kidding? Immediately after the reprimand, you see progress. Then a month later, he thinks the heat is off. He stumbles into work late again after an overnight bender. A quick social media search reveals that he really likes to drink. A lot. Very late at night. Time for more documenting, but you know he’s got to go. You have to confront him. How mentally stable is he? Is he a danger to himself or others in the office? Did you miss his prison record along with his social media activities? You also know the impact that his losing this job will have on his family. He made that quite clear in the phone message he left you one night while he was undoubtedly inebriated. Everyone in the company wonders what’s wrong with YOU for creating this mess. You’re not going to sleep tonight. Or for a while until this gets resolved.

Stage Five: Acceptance

It’s obvious now; he’s got to go. The records are there. He’s not improving, and you’ve documented all the conversations and notices, complete with signatures. You hope this is his “hitting bottom” moment and he can rebound. But the rebound will just have to be somewhere else. You call him in and give him the news. He’s outraged, but slowly (thankfully) he gets it. He shakes hands and security escorts him out of the building with his box of desk goodies. You sigh with relief. Wow, do you need a nap.

How to Avoid the Grief

Working with someone who’s a bad fit for your company and team is draining. It distracts the company and management from achieving the core objectives of the business. It drains you of resources — time, attention, emotional energy and, yes, money, because you may have to pay out a contract settlement, not to mention starting the entire recruiting and hiring process all over again.

Experts say that hiring the wrong person can cost companies 50 percent over the person’s stated salary. So if you hire someone who makes $100,000 annually and he isn’t a good fit, it can cost you $150,000. That doesn’t include the lost productivity of the position and of everyone involved in managing the human resources process to try to turn that person around or, if you’re not successful, to dismiss him.

Getting a good hire right the first time avoids the grief and helps your company and department stay on course. It is almost impossible for any company or workgroup to see themselves as clearly as an impartial outsider, so hiring a recruiting firm who can identify the types of marketing and communications people who are most likely to succeed makes good business sense.

“We would never perform surgery on ourselves,” said Debbie Milks, vice president of operations, Brookwoods Group. “We call on third parties all the time to help with our own internal team hires because we need the objectivity and perspective from someone who is not in the middle of our own whirlwind. In that same way, we provide our own clients that kind of perspective to help ensure they hire great professionals with all the required capabilities AND who are a perfect fit to their team.”

Milks added that the recruiting firm should have a thorough process that goes beyond merely screening for qualifications and experience then checking a few references. The process should also uncover the intangible qualities that make the person successful — aligned with your unique culture, immersed in your dynamic environment, and interacting with your diverse team personalities.

To help assure your recruiting firm helps you get the right hire the first time, ask them some important questions:

  • What is your experience with this specific type of professional?
    The right answer includes the number of people placed in the last year in virtually similar jobs, including the names of clients willing to describe their experience with the firm.
  • What is your experience with this specific industry?
    The right answer includes the number and percentage of placements in the industry in the last year, including some anecdote that proves they know your industry quirks, special characteristics and terminology.
  • What makes you different from other recruiting firms?
    The right answer includes some indication that the people working on your assignment are experienced, long-term employees of the firm and committed to a process that helps assure a perfect match.
  • What is special about your process?
    The right answer includes the requirement to spend a lot of time to get to know you, your team and your company as well as the candidates and their strengths, abilities and desires.  Nothing can shortcut the real time it takes to make a great fit.
  • Have you had a failed placement?
    Every experienced recruiting firm has had failed placements, so the right answer includes this admission, plus a description of how they fell over themselves to make good and deliver a great outcome in the end.

About Brookwoods Group

Brookwoods Group demonstrates the special understanding of marketing and communications professionals and how to match the right people with the right opportunity to create more value for its clients. Since 1998, the company has been providing staffing, recruiting and program management services for marketing and sales; marketing communications; digital and web; change initiatives; and more. From long-term, on-site contracts to permanent recruiting and contract-to-permanent assignments, Brookwoods Group has proven processes that match unique people with unique marketing and communications roles. Please visit for more information.

For the related infograph,
"How Hiring a Marketing & Communications Recruiting Firm Can Actually Save Your Company Money"