In a nutshell: If an employee isn’t working out quickly, take these steps to improve the situation — or move toward a separation, if that’s unavoidable.



The new employee charmed the interviewers, demonstrated all the right skills and boasted impressive references. On paper and in person, he or she looked like an ideal candidate. But now, a few days or weeks after hiring, you’re having second thoughts. Perhaps there are communication issues; maybe there’s a cultural mismatch. No matter the issue, one thing is becoming clear: You may have selected the wrong person for the job.

Entrepreneur says making a bad hire “drains energy and time”and can be costly to correct because it requires the company to start the search process all over again. In addition, a hiring mistake can also affect staff morale and damage a company’s reputation.

Here’s what to do if you think you’ve made a bad choice.

Before Taking Action, Take Another Look

Glassdoor, the employer review site, says sometimes it’s best to retain the employee and invest in his or her development. Ask these two questions:

  1. Is there a good cultural fit?
  2. Is he or she a hard worker?

If the answer to both questions is yes, the employee may work out well in the long run with some coaching and guidance. Perhaps the employee simply needs help with communication skills or information about company-specific policies and processes. Glassdoor says it may be difficult to find another employee that is both a hard worker and can fit well into the corporate culture.

Be Honest

Provide honest feedback as soon as the employee starts with your company. You always want to be polite — maybe even deferential — with a new hire, but don’t be too reserved. If you see questionable actions or decisions, ask respectfully for an explanation. If the new employee doesn’t seem to be fitting in, find opportunities to inform him or her about your methodologies and culture. This might be especially important if you’re a small firm and don’t have a formalized onboarding process.

The Muse, a career guidance website, provides several tips for providing feedback, including:

  • Don’t be vague
  • Explain how the action or decision affects other people
  • Provide guidance for improvement

Keep a Record

Of course, you know that documenting an employee’s performance issues is good for legal reasons. But the need for keeping objective, clear records goes much further than just the preparing for the possibility of a lawsuit. They can be used to help the employee understand the steps that the company has already taken to improve performance. And they reduce the need for people to rely on memories, which can be fuzzy, incomplete or swayed by emotion.

The Society for Human Resource Management lists several steps for recording employee performance. One of the most important is to include the employee’s explanation for why he or she isn’t meeting expectations. Another key step is write down the action plan that you and the employee have agreed upon, and the deadline for achieving those goals.


If there’s no chance for improvement, it’s probably time to part ways with the employee. While this is a very difficult step for everyone involved, it’s important to not drag your feet. Harvard Business Review says that it’s important to be brief and up-front when terminating an employee, and to show compassion. Don’t “… waffle or be long-winded — the words you use to fire someone should be simple and to-the-point,” HBR says. In addition, resist the temptation to apologize. The fault for the termination is the employee’s, not yours.

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