Making an offer and sealing the deal with an awesome candidate is an amazing moment. Your team’s missing piece has finally arrived, and the world seems full of hope and possibility.
And then, on their first day, the fantasy of the perfect new hire is replaced by the reality that you just hired a human being, with all their good qualities and bad habits alike. Nobody expects a new hire’s first day to go perfectly; we’re all used to the awkward small talk, questions and mistakes, and finding the new guy wandering aimlessly through the halls looking for the bathroom.
Sometimes though, the offenses are a little worse than asking a few too many questions or taking too long to figure out the task management system.
What do you do when a new employee turns out to be a different person than the one you thought you hired? Someone with a bad attitude, or who doesn’t seem to know the etiquette of working in an office with other people?
In so many companies, culture is of increasing focus and importance — but it only takes one bad apple to spoil all the work you’ve put into building a cohesive, successful team that can work together and support each other every day.
So what can you do when your awesome new hire feels like a dud?
Give ’em time.
The first day at a new job is nerve-wracking for most, and downright terrifying for some. People react to stress differently, and it’s possible your new hire isn’t really being their true self during their first week or so. Cut them a little slack early on, and make sure what you see as a bad attitude or lack of awareness isn’t just stress getting the better of them. They may seem distracted or flighty because they really are distracted by feeling overwhelmed with new people, new skills to learn, a new work environment — and they’ll be totally cool once they settle in a bit.
Tell them the rules — clearly.
If this new job is the employee’s first job, they may need to just hear from you exactly what the rules are. People do some crazy things at work just because they don’t know better (even if it feels like they should, because, come on — texting during meetings or taking 2 hour lunches should be obvious no-no’s), you shouldn’t shy away from sitting down with them and making the rules clear.
Even people who have worked other places may have wildly different expectations for what’s appropriate at an office. Someone moving from a corporate job to a small startup, or vice versa, will likely be experiencing a bit of culture shock when they first arrive, and will bring lots of habits from their former role that you may need to correct. You’re not reprimanding them; just call them into your office and run down some of the biggest points.
Don’t jump the gun.
Feeling like you made a bad hiring decision can make you crazy. But don’t take drastic measures like immediately firing someone who suddenly doesn’t feel like such a good fit after all. Instead, put your amazing manager powers to use.
Keep communicating with your new hire about best practices, but also watch them closely to see if they are putting your advice into practice or disregarding it entirely. While it may take a while for someone to get used to a new habit or behavior and start doing it naturally every day, it’s not hard to tell when they are trying to do that.
Watch their behavior, and note the ways in which they adapt. Is it a smooth transition? Or are they struggling to fit into the mold of your culture?
If, after several weeks, it seems like your guidance hasn’t been heeded or that the person just can’t shape themselves to fit what your team needs, then it’s time to start evaluating how successful they will realistically be at your company. But before then, it’s all about time and careful coaching.
Have you ever made a hire you weren’t sure about?