what to do with corporate culture misfits

How To Deal With A Corporate Culture Misfit


I was speaking with the CEO of a local company yesterday, and he was disappointed by the discovery that one of his new executive hires is not working out. This was a candidate who had come highly recommended and had charmed his way through the hiring process, with a great resume to boot. In short, the company had high hopes for this new hire. To see this person now floundering and failing to launch in the position was discouraging. And damaging to the company.

Could It Happen To Your Company?

I’m sure it’s of little consolation to him, but this CEO is far from alone in his experience. Mis-hiring is extremely common (as much as 45-50% of all hires, according to the University of Chicago). Most of those mis-hires were surely candidates who someone was positive would go on to be superstar employees. Careful vetting and assessment can drastically reduce the likelihood of hiring a corporate culture misfit. But, when you are already convinced you have a “sure thing” you may skip over most of this process and rely more on your instinct and first impressions (notoriously unreliable). It’s a recipe for dashed hopes at best and disaster at worst.

Before long, your golden candidate will reveal some tarnish. Perhaps your company’s reputation is built on trust, quality and reliability. Your clients know you for this and expect a certain standard from your products, services, and people. But then you bring on an executive who is all about profit and rapid delivery — even if it is at the expense of quality and reliability. This executive may be great at what she does; she may be able to bring impressive benefits to your company. That may even be one of the things you liked about her! But such an employee has a fundamentally different value system than the rest of your company.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Odds are, you won’t be willing to sacrifice what your company stands for in order to enjoy the benefits this new maverick employee brings. Tempting though they may be . . . Because you’ve built your company around values that you believe in, and it’s what your customers expect. This is a perfect example of a fundamental mis-match in corporate culture values. It could have easily been avoided in the hiring process. But now, here you are, facing a fork in the road.

Is a corporate culture misfit always so obvious? No. In less transparent cases, the misfit may present itself through lack of follow through, lack of commitment on the employee’s part, and difficulty becoming part of the team. One of the reasons these symptoms may appear is that the employee lacks passion for the company and its mission.

Do You Have A Corporate Culture Misfit?

Here’s How To Move Forward:

  • Identify where the problem lies. What kind of misfit do you have?
  • Consider questions such as these:
    • Is this a coachable issue, or is it a character issue?
    • Can this person be successful in their role with additional coaching and onboarding support?
    • Have your expectations for them been clearly communicated and understood by both parties?
    • Are they a good fit for your company values but a poor fit for the role?
    • Is the relationship salvageable? If not, if it’s a character / fundamental mis-match of values, then it’s best to part ways and start searching for a replacement.
  • Next, have the tough conversation with them. Outline what needs to change by when, if you agree to try to make it work.
  • Finally, avoid hiring future misfits by using a strategic hiring process from start to finish. Involve your team, and revisit the job description to confirm it accurately reflects the best “who” you need at your company.

Have a story of a hire gone wrong? Share it in the comments. Or just pay it forward and share this post on social to help another company avoid meeting the same fate.

Next time, hire a right-fit candidate!
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Read more about the importance of hiring for corporate culture fit:
Bad Hire vs. Bad Fit
Developing a Winning Culture: Emulating the Big Brands
Core Values: Developing Your Company Culture