I was a new manager at a relatively busy hospital. Fresh out of training at another site, I had not spent much time with my team yet. My only direction out of training was to hire, and hire quickly. I found a seemingly qualified applicant named Dennis. He had years of experience in the industry and had stayed several years at a couple locations. Dennis interviewed well and even showed up on time in a three piece suit. He answered all questions, an offer was sent off and an acceptance was quickly received.

I could not shake the feeling that he wasn’t quite “right” but I had no basis to believe that was true- until he called off on his first day. There was a family emergency. The team rolled their eyes and I explained that sometimes things happen at the worst times and asked them to think positive. During his first few weeks, Dennis showed up late for work in bleach stained scrubs, his movements were slow, his attitude towards training was mediocre at best and he always had some life event that was more important than him showing up for his team.

I watched my ambitious and efficient top performers becoming increasingly silent as they carried his weight. The other team members used the name “Dennis” as a joke. Through the silence of the team, there were consequences: breaks started to last longer, tardiness started to surface. I sat Dennis down and explained where his performance was falling short and the effect it was having on the team. Yes, he was part of a TEAM, not an individual contributor. He accused me of not being sensitive to him being a young step-father and for not having compassion for his situation (though I had privately given him transportation money from my own pocket and the job he didn’t seem to want). We parted ways.

There are a couple things that I learned:

Find what is missing in your team

It is important to know what stage your team is in before placing an ad. Have they all worked together for years and the thought of training someone with little industry experience might excite them? Are you so understaffed that someone with little experience might further burden them? Is your whole team introverted and cliquey? How might an extroverted social butterfly fit into the mix? It is important to think about what is missing in the team to further engage the existing team. How does this new hire compliment the strengths or challenge the team toward positive growth?

Think about what was really said

The “not quite right” feeling that I felt when I reflected on Dennis was intuition. I realized later I listened to everything that he said, but ignored how he said it. I heard the tone change, the quiet hesitation in the responses and I saw the change in body language or eye contact but my decision was made on the words he said. He chose the correct answers and said everything that I needed to hear. I have since hired many applicants after Dennis and have really learned to listen to everything except the words coming out of an applicants mouth. When I look into their eyes, do I trust them? When I watch their hands, are they nervously excited or lying? Trust your gut.

Make the cut

If you did everything right and were just fooled (which happens to the best of us), do not be afraid to get rid of the problem. After you are sure that you have exhausted all coaching and support opportunities, do not waste another moment on this hire. Your other hires need you and you are only one person. Your team will grow weary of supporting under performers and they will lose confidence in your leadership, authority and trust that you have everyone’s best interest at heart. Cut out the tumor and watch your team grow.

Written by: Kristina Dillard – COO at Tantam Health

About Tantham Health:

Tantam Health specializes in onsite health, worksite clinics and nearsite clinics. Their innovative programs, advanced reporting capabilities, and unique structure of their team allows them to deliver customized solutions that exceed their client’s expectations. The company takes a team-based approach to their worksite healthcare delivery model, adhering to patient-centered medical home (PCMH) guidelines set forth by the NCQA. Learn more at www.tantamhealth.com

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