What do you do when you realize that you are managing a "False Positive" new hire?

I have a DR "new hire" (hired 7 months ago) who I inherited (I entered the company 3 months ago). I think that this person was a False Positive and is not the correct resource for the role. The people who hired this person think that he is a False Positive. I want to terminate the employee.

The problem: The employee is underperforming, but he is trying to improve. He lacks some of the critical skills (ie. critical thinking and problem solving skills) that are absolutely necessary for success in this role.

Would you still follow the late stage coaching model in this instance? How long is long enough to know that it's right to fire someone?

I have been doing O3's, feedback, coaching and trying to delegate to this employee from the beginning.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

TomW's picture
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Have you listened to the "How to fire someone..." casts about systemic feedback?

They discuss how to handle someone who does not respond to feedback and may be a candidate for termination.

tlhausmann's picture
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I have been doing O3's, feedback, coaching and trying to delegate to this employee from the beginning.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!![/quote]

The podcast covering your issue is:

The title is misleading in that the cast focuses on turning an employee into a better performer. I suspect you are posting to the forums because you realize it may be a bit premature to make such a decision so early in your tenure.

Are you under any outstanding directives to make a change immediately?

fchalif's picture
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Can someone define the expression "False Positive"?

jhack's picture

Someone can seem to be a good hire or not.

They can actually turn out to be a good hire or not.

A "false positive" is someone who seems to be a good hire during the interview process, but turns out to be a bad employee.


tufanbe's picture

Hi all,

Thanks for the advice. Yes, I have listened to the podcast "How to fire someone - well almost" and that is what prompted this post.

I want to know if I have to go thru the entire process if they person in question was a recent hire that should not have happened - ie. a False Positive. I have been looking at managing this person as my own personal management challenge. I have been using O3's, feedback and coaching to see if we can improve his performance, but unfortunately things are not improving at a rate that will bring him up to a baseline level of performance fast enough.

I am spending an inordinate amount of time with this person, and this is time that would be much better spent working with my high performers.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

Have you been coaching him in the skills you feel he lacks? From what I recall of the late stage coaching cast there is an implicit assumption that you're looking at late stage coaching because regular coaching (the one without the sword of Damocles) hasn't worked.

What you describe doesn't read to me like someone who, as Tom said, doesn't respond to feedback. The situation reads to me like someone who is trying to respond, trying to get better, but lacks some important skill.

What have you tried so far?


tufanbe's picture

Hi StephenBooth,

You have hit the nail on the head. He IS responding to feedback, but lacks critical skills which will make him successful in his role.

Right now we are coaching on basic data entry parameters, and that does seem to be improving. However, repeated feedback on listening and implementation skills (when we speak about you putting documents on the server and then you don't do it.......) doesn't seem to be entering.

I suppose what is so frustrating for me is that I have to be behind him every step of the way. I have to check all work that goes out, prioritize his day, check up to see that the work has been done etc. It gets worse in that none of his colleagues want to work with him so they all route their questions thru me.

This is a position which I need to be my go-to person on all aspects of finance and administration, including issue resolution and 3rd party relationships, but right now all I can ask is data-entry and low level provider management.

So I come back to the beginning. This is a person who was recently hired and is not right for the role. Is it my duty to coach this person even though we know that he is not the right resource for the role and shouldn't have been made an offer?

Thanks again for your help!

ashdenver's picture

My husband would say "A missing employee is better than a bad employee" and he'd fire the person straight-away.

That's not to say it's the recommended route, by any stretch of the imagination.

Do you think (or has it been proven) that critical thinking cannot be taught or learned? Is this person truly doomed without that skill? Is there any sort of work-around (like a flow-chart to help him figure things out since he lacks the skill)?

Personally, I would suggest giving [url=]the Socratic Method[/url] a try with this employee. Ask him questions until your ears bleed. Lead him into seeing the bigger picture. Expecting him to know how this interacts with that and will impact the other is all well and good but for him to trully see the big picture, ask him questions. You can spell out or provide a document outlining what binary is or you can lead the person to full comprehension. When they actually got from Point A to Point Z themselves, they're more likely to understand and appreciate the lesson and results. Do that often enough and they'll actually begin developing new thought patterns that focus on question-asking and answer-gathering to determine larger-picture answers beyond just "The answer is C."

[quote][u]The chief benefits of this method are that it excites students' curiosity and arouses their thinking, rather than stifling it[/u]. It also makes teaching more interesting, because most of the time, you learn more from the students -- or by what they make you think of -- than what you knew going into the class. Each group of students is just enough different, that it makes it stimulating. It is a very efficient teaching method, because the first time through tends to cover the topic very thoroughly, in terms of their understanding it. It is more efficient for their learning then lecturing to them is, though, of course, a teacher can lecture in less time.

[u]It gives constant feed-back and thus allows monitoring of the students' understanding as you go[/u]. So you know what problems and misunderstandings or lack of understandings you need to address as you are presenting the material. You do not need to wait to give a quiz or exam; the whole thing is one big quiz as you go, though a quiz whose point is teaching, not grading. Though, to repeat, this is teaching by stimulating students' thinking in certain focused areas, in order to draw ideas out of them; [u]it is not "teaching" by pushing ideas into students that they may or may not be able to absorb or assimilate[/u]. Further, by quizzing and monitoring their understanding as you go along, [u]you have the time and opportunity to correct misunderstandings or someone's being lost at the immediate time, not at the end of six weeks when it is usually too late to try to "go back" over the material[/u]. And in some cases their ideas will jump ahead to new material so that you can meaningfully talk about some of it "out of (your!) order" (but in an order relevant to them). Or you can tell them you will get to exactly that in a little while, and will answer their question then. Or suggest they might want to think about it between now and then to see whether they can figure it out for themselves first. There are all kinds of options, but at least you know the material is "live" for them, which it is not always when you are lecturing or just telling them things or they are passively and dutifully reading or doing worksheets or listening without thinking. [/quote]

tufanbe's picture

Hi Ashdenver

The Socratic Method sounds like a great idea. I think that I have already been using that a bit (even if I didn't know what to call it). Until I am able to make the decision to fire or keep, I will ask him questions until the cows come home......because even if he cant' use the skills here, he will be able to use them somewhere else!

Fitch's picture

i know the front page of the website recenty said something about get out of managing if you cant do the firing but think about it this way...

You apply for a job as you think you can do it well from the job description. You get an interview. Your responses to the questions seem to fit well with the person thats needed.

You get the job but it turns out not to be what you thought or the interviewers didnt ask the right questions. The new hire doesnt want to leave as it admits defeat. So now noone is happy.

What next? Ask the new hire how he thinks he's doing and is he happy? A graceful exit or re-assignment may be the right way to handle this...

bflynn's picture

Look at the current openings around your organization - where would this person fit best. Encourage them to make the move. Strongly encourage them to make the move. Don't threaten, but if they still don't want to move, ecourage them as strong as you can without threatening.

On the other hand, if the person is just dead weight and doesn't fit in anywhere AND you have no hope of them growing to become what you want, then don't wait. But don't use that as an excuse to not try. Only you know the difference.


jrfireboy2's picture

My team has an employee who transfered to our group from a completly different department. The job is 100% different. This person, I'll call them "Jane" has been with the company for a while and with our team for about 3 years. Prior to us accepting Jane we spoke with her supervisors at the time. They had nothing but good things to say about her. So we moved her to us. A few months later we started seeing some bad habits, which were addressed and stopped. However Jane simply isn't grasping the concept of our job or the values of our team. Moving this person is easier said than done and our team can't afford to be short another person.
Since Jane isn't my direct I have offered reccomendations to her supervisor such as MT goal setting and holding her accountable for that. The issue is how do you set a goal to "learn a job" when there aren't really any classes, you either get it or you dont...

jhack's picture

It's all about coaching. Aligning assignments with skill acquisition is a core part of management. You might review the Coaching Podcasts.

Values aren't behavior. Does she do what she needs to do? Does she use the same collaboration tools as the rest of the team? Does she align her schedule with the rest of the team and the project plan?

I disagree that "you either get it or you don't..." What are the skills required? Where is she v. the standard for each skill? What would get her up to level? That's the basis for a coaching plan.

Does Jane know that she isn't meeting the standards set for her? She's been on your team 3 years - she should know what's expected of her and where she stands in respect to those goals. If, after three years, she doesn't know she isn't "grasping the concept of our job" then, frankly, that's a failure of management, not hers.

You need to make sure she knows she isn't cutting it. That's your responsibility. And then you need to coach her to get the skills she needs.

If Jane really can't cut it (the job requires use of partial differential equations and she didn't get past high school geometry) then you need to have a career discussion with her. Should she be in a different role?

John Hack