Article: The Counsellor: What to do if the new hire is a cultural mismatch


The Counsellor: What to do if the new hire is a cultural mismatch

Vivek Paranjpe, who leads the HR function of Reliance Industries answers professional and ethical dilemmas faced by our readers at their workplace
The Counsellor: What to do if the new hire is a cultural mismatch

Cultural mismatch, should we fire this new hire?


Affected by the downturn, should I quit?


Vivek Paranjpe, who leads the HR function of Reliance Industries Limited, answers professional and ethical dilemmas faced by our readers at their workplace

I work with an IT firm as a project manager. We have recently had a few new people join my field. There is one person in the team who has not been able to adjust to the team structure and is not adding any value. We have tried to help him adjust and support in whatever way required, however, there is a clear cultural mismatch. It has only been 4 months since he has joined, but we have realized we would need to ask him to leave, since it is taxing on the team as well as him. How does one convey this news to an employee who has only been with us for 4 months? Should I also be questioning the hiring manager in such a scenario, as I feel the cultural misfit isn’t the employee’s fault, but something the hiring manager should have been able to gauge. Please suggest the best way to deal with this situation.

It is not unusual that wrong hiring decisions are made at times. Once you know the hiring decision was wrong, quick decisive steps have to be taken; however, careful introspection is also necessary before such difficult decisions are made. Culture mismatch or not, the right person for the role, are the common reasons put forth by the managers. I believe that one has to go in to the root cause for non-assimilation/non-performance. Some factors that you should consider are:

Has the immediate manager (in this case, I guess you) given the feedback from time to time to this person and has he shown him the reasons for his poor performance? Have you engaged with this person to help him succeed? Hiring or firing an employee is comparatively easy, helping people succeed is the most difficult and crucial role, which has to be played by the immediate manager – have the manager/you played that role effectively? What attempts have been made to help this person adjust to the new environment and work culture? Inducting the new employee in the new company and the new role coupled with orienting him in to the new culture and the work environment is a principle responsibility of the immediate manager and the HR function. Was this role played well by the role holders?

If a person is a misfit from the perspective of skills, capabilities or cultural fit, what attempts have been made to rehabilitate this individual? Was regular feedback provided to the individual? Did you create the corrective action plan for this individual?

Did you put in adequate efforts in form of coaching/providing him with a buddy, HR intervention, skip level meeting for further inputs, etc. with a sincere desire that he improves?

If there is a close engagement with the new hire with periodic feedback and all the efforts as stated above to help him succeed, conveying the news to an employee that he/she is a misfit and therefore, he/she must quit, becomes relatively easy. These are always tough decisions, but since adequate efforts are in place to avoid such decisions and sensitivity has been shown in ‘letter and spirit’, it is much easier for the parties to deal with such a situation.

Most of the times, due to close engagements, such employees themselves are mentally ready to quit and would have started looking around for alternatives. The hiring team obviously needs to be kept in the loop so that similar hiring mistakes do not occur. Your hiring team should also help this person in outplacement. Remember that while firing an employee, a lot of care and proactive steps have to be taken and sensitivity needs to exist.

I work with an organization which belongs to an industry hit by the downturn. For the last 2 months, we have been receiving our salaries 2 weeks late. For this month, the organization has already communicated that the salaries will be given later, effectively leaving us with nothing for this month. I don’t see this situation improving any time soon, and I am tempted to look out and move before it gets worse. However, I have been with the organization for 4 years and it has been a wonderful experience working here. For this reason, I cannot get myself to leave the organization at this time. Please advise if I should wait for a month or two in the hope that the situation might improve or should I leave now before it gets worse?

I can fully appreciate that you would not like to desert the organization at this stage and are hoping that the situation will improve. However, your hope that the organization will start performing well and the salaries will start coming on time, has to be backed with factual data and realism. Such hopes have to be based on good industry knowledge, your own company’s strategies and actions to navigate out of difficult times, and not on emotional considerations.

Depending on your understanding of what business your corporation is in, and the plans that the management has to revive the business, a well thought out decision has to be made. I suggest you get in to an open conversation with your management and come to the right conclusion. 

I have recently started working with a MNC in an internal HR role. Given that this is an established organization, the processes for most of the tasks are in place and it has been fairly simple for me to pick up the work. However, recently, while working on a project that required the participation of the entire team, I was asked to exempt a few team members. This might seem like a small exception, but made me think. In places with such defined processes, how do you decide when to make an exception and where do you draw the line?

Policies and processes are necessary for smooth functioning of the organization. They ensure transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness. Well-laid down processes also ensure predictability. As leaders however, we have to understand that the process framework ensures most of the repetitive activities are efficient and effective. Processes however, generally do not take care of non-repetitive and non-routine things that happen in the company, exception management kicks in at this stage.

A good leader understands when to make exceptions and uses his/her own wisdom and discretion. In the case that you have pointed out, if the project meeting was crucial for everyone to attend, you should have felt empowered not to exclude few members just because the process or policy did not permit. A good leader is able to stick his neck out and state that ‘I did make an exception’ because it was necessary. As long you have reasonable and logical reasons and courage, by all means you should take a risk and make exceptions. This ability differentiates leaders from others.

Vivek is a senior HR professional with over 37 years of work experience. He has worked in several leadership positions and is currently leading the HR function of Reliance Industries Limited. He also serves as an independent Director on the Board of MotilalOswal Financial Services Limited. He was based in Singapore for several years, wherein his last assignment was that of Director HR Operations, Asia Pacific, in Hewlett Packard. Vivek has recently started his 2 blogs viz: & Beyond, & discoveries
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Topics: C-Suite

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