January 28th, 2022

TJ Kastning

This is a story about a well-meaning and successful company that hires a great candidate, but is surprised and disappointed to see the hire fail.


Busy teams are rightly thrilled to hire experienced people familiar with their industry challenges.

But it’s easy to assume because these people are experienced in the industry that they will require a minimum of onboarding, training, and coaching support to start contributing.

“We don’t need to slow down to hire this person!”

The team underestimates the uniqueness with which they have designed their culture and processes.

The range of possible assumptions is large.

  • Definitions
  • Procedural steps
  • Behavior
  • Problem-solving communication

The new employee feels like a fish out of water with a team they don’t know and systems they are untrained on. They feel unsupported through the transition. Perhaps they feel judged for not immediately contributing.

The team begins to questions the skillset of their new team member.


The newly hired teammate feels set up for failure and finds a new job where they can be successful. Their industry experience is not used as a substitute for specific company training and onboarding, so they succeed

Blame shifting is common in toxic companies.

“Well they weren’t doing so well anyways.” “They failed to make a difference.” Etc, etc, etc…

This can be quite the helpful team learning opportunity, which I explore more in this article about Building Your Competitive Advantage Gap From Bad Hires, Reflection, And Vulnerability.

It’s easy to take new employee cultural and process inculcation for granted. DON’T!


  • Leadership used the employee’s experience to justify an assumption about their (lack of) onboarding and training needs
  • Leadership hired without recognizing their unique responsibility to this employee to give them everything they need to be successful
  • Leadership failed to check in sufficiently to recognize the problem
  • Leadership failed to coach their team sufficiently to recognize and respond to the low morale a struggling employee will have

Leadership, leadership, leadership. Everything resolves down to a leadership problem.

But what if it’s someone else’s mistake?


  • Create a culture of welcome and support for new hires. The team is here to make them successful and their eager enthusiasm to help with lower barriers to good questions for the newbie. If you have a high-performance team, and a careful hiring process, then the team should understand the investment being made into each hire. That investment demands cultivation.
  • Explain each layer of your company. From values and philosophy to systems, to processes, to expected behaviors, and commonly used terms. Don’t assume because it is obvious to you that it will be obvious to them.This can be done in a handbook, a conversation, or a video.The process of explaining will also be good for leaders to bring from the subconscious to the conscious. It’s common for core cultural values to remain unspoken for years.It is also incredibly common for experienced practitioners to be terrible teachers because they have forgotten what it was like to not know how to do something. These are the wrong choice to manage onboarding. Appoint patient teachers who will enjoy the process of helping that person be successful.
  • Use regular relational check-ins to detect and address issues earlier.“What’s been challenging lately?”“You have a new perspective on working here. Where do you think we can improve your training?”“How is your relationship with *insert critical relationship* developing?”
  • Good onboarding takes years. Onboarding is about alignment. Alignment changes as people change. You might not be training the processes and introducing them to other teammates anymore, but you should be coaching to an ever-closer alignment with the company vision.


If you do have to fire them, don’t make it a surprise. Surprise firings reveal lack of communication about problems and appropriate action to resolve them.

You can read more on the inefficacy and the team morale hit surprise firings create in our article: You’re Fired; The Efficacy and Ethics of Surprise Firing