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Seven Tips for Knowing You Hired the Wrong Manager

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Hire slow, fire fast—it’s a common refrain, but one that is difficult for many shop owners to act on. Even the best hiring professional can fall victim to a bad hire, and waiting too long to correct that mistake can be costly.

Most business owners have been susceptible to a bad hire at some point, but knowing what a bad hire looks like from the get-go is important to making sure it doesn’t happen again, says Norm Bobay, president and CEO of industry hiring firm hireMAX.

“The easy answer is that the reason that employment relationships fall apart is because the selection is initially bad,” says Craig Lockerd, owner of AutoMax Recruiting, an automotive industry recruiting firm that has placed roughly 130,000 people in the industry. “So many business owners feel they can fix anybody, but you can’t. You can’t teach character. If I make a poor hiring decision up front, there’s no way it’s going to become a good situation down the line.”

Bobay and Lockerd highlight the biggest things to look for after hiring a manager—things that could be early warning signs that the manager will not work out.

1. The new hire is a complainer. Lockerd says this person hates everything from the get-go and isn’t afraid to let everyone around them know it. This could be everything from the work environment, their workspace or even shooting down other people’s ideas without offering a solution.

“I don’t like ‘yes’ men or women in my company, but these people complain about everything,” he says. “I can’t be wrong 100 percent of the time. When I have that kind of person, I get them out of the door so quick.”

If there are any signs of arrogance during the interview process, Lockerd says that is a huge red flag that he or she should not be hired.

“If the negativity is passed on to other employees, that could indicate poor work performance,” he says. “Body language is really important, too. Someone with their arms crossed or rolling their eyes, that’s a sure sign.”

In addition, if they constantly make comparisons to their old job and how much better it was, or on the flip side, how terrible it was, this could be another indication they will never be satisfied at your shop.

Another warning sign to look out for is posting negative comments on social media, Lockerd says. While being a part of social media platforms isn’t a bad thing, if you notice that the new manager is posting negative comments about the company on those sites, it can reflect poorly on the organization.

2. When you see your company’s entire culture change following the arrival of one person. Bobay says that although this may sound extreme, he has seen it happen time and time again.

“If they’re not socializing with other people at the shop at all, and at this point, you have a pretty good culture in your shop, that might be a sign that they’re not a good fit,” he says. “They can be a real danger if it comes to that.”

Bobay says that cliques forming and an increase in gossip around the shop are easy ways to tell if this is happening. Many businesses consciously focus on creating a specific type of culture, and one bad fit can spoil years of hard work. If a new hire attempts, consciously or not, to change the culture by forming cliques, that is a bad sign, he says.

In fact, Bobay says that if the other staff doesn’t like the new manager, it could even cause other employees to leave the shop.

“The number-one reason why employees leave is because of their relationship to the manager,” he says. “If the manager is not being very nice to them, then it’s easier for them to leave.”

To spot this one, you need to be clear about what your organization’s values are. Too often, interviewers brush off concerns about this type of alignment, says Bobay, but a cultural mismatch can lead to nearly as many problems as a skills mismatch will.

3. The new hire is not flexible. Job responsibilities sometimes evolve and change quickly and a new hire must be willing to adapt to this environment, and even handle tasks that weren’t in the original job description.

Lockerd says that new hires should be eager to prove they’re a team player and will accept new challenges. If you hear, “That’s not my job,” that could be a warning sign that they’re not willing to be flexible, he says.

“That’s the first person that wants a raise, that’s the first person who wants time off and is the first person that complains about the additional workload,” Lockerd says.

Be on the lookout for an unwillingness to listen to coworkers’ ideas, or a reluctance to share knowledge with the group. If a problem arises in the shop and the manager is easily stressed or unwilling to change their opinion, it may be difficult for them to effectively lead the staff.

4. The new hire is overtly friendly with the staff. While being friendly with the staff is essential to building a sense of camaraderie, Lockerd says that if a new hire is searching for friendship with the staff he manages, that could become a problem. Being too friendly with staff could mean they have trouble being seen as an authority figure in the shop, enforcing policies or going through with any disciplinary measures, he says. In addition, make sure the manager is being appropriate with all staff members.

“If someone is flat-out hitting on a woman or approaching that kind of attitude, they’re out,” says Lockerd. “If it starts bad, there’s no way it’s going to end well.”

5. When the manager’s KPIs or job duties are never met. Obviously, most people will need some degree of training, says Bobay. Your company may have different policies and procedures than the employee’s previous employer, but the learning curve should be complete after a few months, he says. If the person does not deliver after the probationary time period, they may not be as committed as you had earlier anticipated.

Bobay says that during the interview process, the potential manager needs to have a track record of achievement. Look for candidates who have a track record of building something or taking a project successfully from A to B. If the candidate gives you a list of people who can speak well of their work and no one on the list is a previous manager, Bobay says this could indicate that the person knows their past managers won’t speak as positively.

6. The manager is better suited to have a lower-ranking job. In this day and age, many job candidates are excellent at interviewing, says Bobay, and know how to spin their past work and results to the point where they can seem suited to a higher position when, in fact, they would be better suited to a different role. If you realize that a new hire is “putting on an act,” it is important to deal with the person immediately.

“We put that off because we don’t want to go through the hiring process again,” says Bobay. “We believe in helping them create a benchmark and look for the right people in the first place.”

7. Don’t ignore your gut feeling. Sometimes, a sinking feeling that the new hire isn’t going to work out is the only indication, says Lockerd. At the end of the day, even if you have all these other reasons and concerns, don’t ignore your gut feeling. Although you can’t fire someone based on this feeling alone, Lockerd says it’s important to pay attention to it and keep your eyes open for any other indications.

“When I first started my company 20 years ago, I started with two guys. One of them is still with me but the other guy was a friends of his,” says Lockerd. “I knew right from jump that it was a bad hire. But because of the relationship and his resume, I figured I would give him a shot. Six years later, he was a complete trainwreck in the office and it took me months to fire him. I was thinking about it and stressing about it every day. The day I got rid of him, it was a 100-pound weight lifted off my back.”

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