Don’t Be So Nice to New Hires

Written by on June 25, 2018

The first 90 days are critical to the success of a new hire. Most organizations go out of their way to make people feel comfortable when they are first hired on. (Okay…maybe that’s overstated…but we can emphatically agree most leaders go out of their way).

During this “honeymoon” period, a lot of things have to happen for this person to be successful. They have to learn a new job, a new boss, a new culture, a new drive to work, who the toxic employees are (you know you have them), etc. During all of the acclimation, there is one thing more important than all of that…your expectations of them as an employee.

Too many times, leaders try so hard to make people feel welcome and part of the team that they put off providing valuable insight into what they need that person to be focused on in their new role. They put off those coaching comments or difficult conversations they should be having at first because they want to give them time to adjust to the new organization. While I agree a little bit of grace is nice in the beginning, in the long run not giving critical feedback will hurt the organization, the team, and the employee.

Spending too much time relationship building in the beginning can keep leaders from being objective about a new hire’s performance. They might overlook red flags by linking them to someone being new instead of someone not truly cut out for the position.

I once had a client ask me to fire someone. When I replied I didn’t do that but could coach him to do it instead….he simply said he just couldn’t do it. This is the exact conversation that followed:

Client: “I can’t fire her and need you to”

Me:  “Are you serious?  Why can’t you fire her?”

Client:  “I’m scared of her”

Me:  “Oh…What could be so scary?”

Client: ”I’m scared of her reaction. She will be so upset and might even ruin my reputation”

Me: “She’s ruining it already by making you look like a weak leader”.

Client:  “I suppose so. That’s why you need to fire her!”


After we both laughed…this is what followed:


Me:  “Okay, I’ll help you but tell me how long you have felt this way”?


Wait for it……..


Client: “Well…about 16 years…since I hired her”


And there you have it. The story of the first time I fired someone that I didn’t even know. I realized at that moment we had to take some action quickly if we had any shot at turning around the culture. (In the name of transparency, you need to know that I will help you fire this person in your organization, but I will charge you double the fee…mostly kidding of course.)

As I have traveled around giving keynotes telling that story, it’s amazing how many people come up after and say they have that same employee on their team. Some have hired them while others inherited them through a promotion. Regardless, most people can relate to this story.

This could all be eliminated if leaders held people more accountable during the beginning of their new career.  Once you realize you have a great hire, THEN go the extra mile to make them feel like they are part of the team.  Creating a high-performance environment starts with demanding high performance from every member of the team and that message needs to start on the first day of the job.