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Hire Slow, Fire Fast: How Smart Hiring and Wise Firing Can Sustain a Business in Tough Times

Deliberate, Not Desperate. It’s easy and tempting, in this dearth of a labor market, to hire any warm body who submits an application and passes a background check. Trust me, I get employers’ fear and desperation. The worry that you’ll have to turn away business –Turn away business!– because you don’t have the employees to do the work. I shudder to think about it. As enticing as it might seem to play fast and loose with hiring, those lowering of hiring standards will end up hurting business in the long run.  My motto: Hire slow, Fire fast! When I hire, I’m as picky, careful, and deliberate as if I were buying a new house, committing to marry someone, or selecting the dessert on which to indulge my calories. Taking on new employees is a big commitment and the truth is I won’t settle.

Smart Hiring. Like many business owners, I’m constantly on the hunt for “good” workers, but I’ve ended up defining what makes a good worker in an unexpected way.  Most might think that I would look for people who can complete the job competently and in a timely manner. True, those are important qualities but they aren’t sufficient.  Not on my team.  Matching our company’s culture is just as (if not more so) important as being competent at the task at hand. I learned that the hard way.

Wise Firing. Ms. Haughty was an excellent cleaning technician –diligent, conscientious, and efficient. Clients were happy with the work she did. But I wasn’t. I sent a new employee to work and learn from Ms. Haughty and rather than serving as a mentor, trainer, and supporter, she refused to help the new employee, snubbing her, and not-so-subtly reminding her that she was, after all, top dog in this company. Despite her competence, I let her go.  I simply do not have time for workers who provoke competitiveness and prefer pecking orders to cooperation and mutual support.

Drama is Deadly. In the long run, Ms. Haughty’s attitude was toxic and created drama. It leads to others being unhappy at work and only prompting them to look elsewhere for employment.  In my experience, if I put one good worker in a toxic environment, one of two things will happen: 1) that worker will also become toxic, succumbing to the negativity or 2) they’ll leave (because that’s what sensible, healthy people do when in a toxic environment, they leave).

Community, Not Competition. Above all else, my team has to share and honor the same core values –respect, teamwork, a positive attitude, reliability, and a commitment to continuous improvement. That last quality is a particularly important one because it requires people to acknowledge that they always have room to do better, be better. I want to foster a sense of belongingness among my employees. It’s about community, not competition.

Breaking up (can be) is hard to do. I’m not going to say it’s easy to let go of workers, particularly ones who excel at the task, but my job is to take care of my team as a whole and to foster an environment in which people feel a sense of belonging, support, and appreciation.  When I hire smartly and lead with integrity, it means people are much more likely to stay, contribute to a healthy and productive working environment, and continue working for years to come.

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