If, like most entrepreneurs, you started your home-based business as a one-person operation, hiring your first employee can be a major milestone. Often, first employees are not strangers; instead, they are family members, former colleagues, or close friends. As your business grows, however, you may need to hire an employee with specialized skills, or you may simply have run out of candidates in your personal circle. Once that happens, you could be facing a problem that even corporate hiring managers can encounter: finding out that the new employee is not the right person for the job. You want to make sure that you are not just second-guessing your decision, and you want to give your new employee every opportunity to settle in before you draw any conclusions. However, there are some red flags that you should not ignore if you are struggling to decide whether to replace a newly hired employee.
1. The new employee does not respect your boundaries. When you bring employees into your home, you naturally establish certain boundaries. You probably make some rooms strictly off-limits to employees, or you give them only limited access. For example, you might allow employees to keep their lunches in your kitchen refrigerator or use the microwave, but finding them happily dicing and slicing the ingredients for a pot of soup might leave you fuming. Worse, you could catch them going through the cabinets in your master bath, using your washer and dryer for the laundry they brought with them, or snooping through your closets. You may also have set boundaries related to your children, pets, or other adults living in your home. Unless your situation differs from that of most home-based business owners, you probably do not want your employees disciplining your children, feeding your pets, or interrupting other household members who may be trying to work or just relax at home. Ignoring your boundaries is a sign of disrespect that should be immediately corrected. A second occurrence likely indicates that the employee will continue to ignore your boundaries.
2. Your new hire is decidedly lacking in the so-called people skills. Sadly, there are some employees who simply do not understand the need for calm, diplomatic exchanges. Suppose you called your plumber to replace a faucet with a minor drip, and you scheduled the appointment for two o’clock Wednesday afternoon. Around noon on Wednesday, you hear your new employee literally screaming at someone over the phone. The employee is referring to the caller as unprofessional, useless, and easily replaced, and your employee is also using profanity liberally. It turns out that the caller was your plumber, notifying you that he would be about an hour late. You have to wonder how your employee would react to a serious issue if such a minor one could trigger such a response. You might also wonder whether your employee could unleash a similar tirade on a customer or client. At the very least, your new employee could pose a hazard to the success of your enterprise.
3. On the employee’s first day, he or she spends the first two hours telling you how you are running your business all wrong. Virtually all successful entrepreneurs are open to suggestions, and they welcome feedback from their employees. However, employees who have not yet learned anything about their exact duties, your overall strategy, your unique business challenges, or your clientele are not in a position to offer useful recommendations. If an employee displays a know-it-all attitude immediately, you should prepare for a power struggle that could undermine your authority as well as confuse your clients and your other employees.
4. The only consistency the employee shows involves making the same mistakes over and over. You trained the employee, provided reminders repeatedly, and even furnished a written checklist of the steps needed to complete a task correctly, but the same mistakes continue to be made. You begin to wonder whether the employee actually wants to be terminated. If you decide that this is the case, you should probably consider complying.
5. The employee never asks questions. No employee can possibly know everything about a new job or company, so questions about procedures, customers, policies, and products or services should be common, especially during the first week or so. However, when you ask whether the employee has any questions, none are ever asked. If you do not know what your employee does not understand, you cannot provide the necessary training, feedback, or support to ensure that tasks are being handled correctly.
6. The employee tries to conceal mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when learning a new job. If your employee attempts to conceal errors, your business could suffer. For example, if an employee does not tell you that they forgot to notify a customer that an order has been delayed, you could be put on the spot when the customer calls to complain. One attempt to conceal a mistake might be forgivable. You can coach your employee, explain how critical it is to communicate with you, and stress that he or she is not in trouble for making a mistake. However, an ongoing pattern of hiding mistakes, especially serious ones, could indicate that it is time for the two of you to go your separate ways.
7. Your employee is unreliable. A new hire who comes in late or leaves early every day is showing a lack of dependability as well as a lack of respect for you and your other employees. Taking exceptionally long breaks or lunches, failing to report for scheduled shifts, spending more time on personal calls than business ones, and postponing tasks until the last possible moment can also indicate that you cannot trust the employee’s reliability.
No matter how hard you try, it is possible to hire someone who is a poor fit. Some candidates are masters of the interview, so they know exactly what to say to convince you to hire them. Even highly experienced recruiters at major corporations can be fooled, so think of a bad hire as a learning experience rather than a failure.
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