The TV show What Not to Wear has found its way from the UK onto U.S. cable TV's The Learning Channel. In it, two fashion experts are asked to help a "fashion-challenged" person learn (a) why what they've been wearing doesn't work well for them, and (b) what other clothing choices are available to help the person look better.
Since everyone wears clothes (save for nudists), the show has gained traction and become a hit. So why not a parallel idea for business owners? Why not help business people avoid hiring mistakes that can damage reputation and image, as well as the bottom line?
With this question in mind, I picked the brains of a few business owners and came up with Who Not to Hire, a fun yet realistic set of rules for avoiding hiring mistakes that can cost you more than money:
Rule #1: Do Not Hire Family. You've heard it said that family members who visit are like fish—after a few days they start to smell.
Similarly, as employees, family members can bring smelly family baggage with them. Attitudes long abandoned can come back to haunt you when the presence of a family member reminds you of an uncomfortable past.
Another danger is the obligation to make sure family members keep their jobs. If Cousin Joe is working in a particular department but not pulling his weight, it can be mighty uncomfortable around family gatherings after Cousin Joe is let go.
The flip side isn't much better: If you let Cousin Joe stay, other employees may see your tolerance of Joe's poor performance as an excuse to start slacking off, too.
Rule #2: Do Not Hire Friends. A friend's house can be a haven after a rough work week. But when your friends are working with you all week long, it may be their behavior that's causing your week to be rough!
Think about it: Friends put on their "friend" face when you're around. If they become employees, you may not like the look of their "employee" face!
Additionally, friends often want special treatment. Since you're both boss and friend, it's easy for them to perceive they're above the rules. The only possible result is friction in any number of directions, none of which are any good.
Rule #3: Do Not Hire Family or Friends of Existing Employees. Just because Janet is an awesome employee doesn't mean her friend will be one, too. Networking is fine, but when an employee recommends a friend or family member, more often than not he's doing that person a favor — not looking out for the best interest of you, the employer.
Besides, if you hire this employee's friend and it doesn't work out, it creates tension between you and the good employee, too - a double whammy!
Rule #4: Do Not Hire People Who Attend the Same House of Worship as You. Most people attend a house of worship as a place for sanctuary; a place for renewal and spiritual refreshment. Merely attending a holy location tends to bring out the best in us, and it prepares us for another week of dealing with the rough and tumble world.
Sadly, our best side is not always reflected in our workplace behavior. And even those with similar beliefs can have differing opinions on the best way to handle workplace issues.
You can see the problems: If an employee who is a fellow worshipper perceives you responded "incorrectly" to a workplace problem and then confides these feelings to other fellow worshippers, it casts a negative light on you. Whether this person's perceptions were right or not, so much for having a sanctuary!
Also, if for some reason you have to fire or discipline this person, stand by for the social pressure to come down hard.
Rule #5: Do Not Hire on Impulse. Danger! The rationale that drives our impulses is almost never the rationale that should be used for hiring.
Hiring the right person requires careful analysis; examining an applicant's strengths and weaknesses against a pre-established set of required duties and tasks. Impulse hiring leaves this process in the dust, and that's exactly what you'll be eating after a person hired on impulse quits in relatively short order.
Rule #6: Do Not Hire Out of Pity. As cold as it may sound, it is not your job to provide employment to people down on their luck. Bad choices on their part may be the cause of their situation. If that's the case and you hire them out of pity, you circumvent their learning process and you won't be doing them any favors.
This is not to say that truly capable and valuable workers don't have bad times come upon them. If people are qualified, then they're qualified and by all means, hire them - if you need them. But don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole just because you want to alleviate a stressful time in someone's life.
What you're looking for are employees who will help your company soar - not employees your company has to carry.
Bottom line, making bad hiring decisions can cost a lot more than money. But through careful, strategic thinking, you can hire wisely and save yourself a lot of personal anguish.