Who NOT to Ask When You’re Hiring & Firing

Posted on April 26, 2012.

There’s no question that being a great listener is key to being a great manager and leader. But when hiring  or  firing someone, can listening to too many of the wrong people hurt you?  I learned the hard way that the  answer is yes.

The first time you ever have to downsize, you’re already stressed and confused.  You’re getting advice from your HR partners, your boss, and partners across all functions. As a manager, my first layoff experience went something like this:

My brand new boss who knew no one on my team came in town to tell me,  “ you need to close these two offices, cut these two offices by 50% and go down 2 more in your home office. And by the way, I don’t know them, but I heard you should make sure you get rid of these three people.”

I had just inherited these folks so HR and other group managers felt the need to tell me what to do.  I made the mistake of failing to take the time to get to know everyone. Without reading their performance reviews, speaking to former managers or clients, I made major decisions about people’s careers based on other people’s advice.  I learned later that many of these folks had their own reasons for “saving” certain individuals. While the majority of the decisions were the right ones, I still have regrets about a couple of people that deserved to stay.

Listening to others too much isn’t just risky with layoffs. One of my hiring strategies was to have co-workers talk to the top candidates.  They aren’t necessarily interviewing, but they know more about the day-to-day job and what type of person would fit into the office culture.  The mistake I made was not just using their input as one tool in several hiring decision tools.  The team really loved this one candidate I had doubts about, but I caved. Worst hire ever!! No need to go into detail, but within a few months, the same people that just had to have this person on the team wanted to know when I was going to get rid of him.

It’s important to be a strong listener and to build consensus into your decision making process. But when it comes to hiring or firing someone, you need to filter opinions and act more on facts, past history and your own gut feeling. Caving into the whims of others will only result in regret.