People will let you down

May 16, 2017

Did you ever hire someone who didn’t work out? Someone who effectively “fired themselves” by either refusing to accept your coaching and input or recognize the signs that they were in trouble and change their behavior? I have – more than once. And like any parting of the ways with an employee – perhaps someone you even considered a friend – it’s not fun.

The important thing is to learn from it. Here are some thoughts:

  1. No matter what happens, no matter how angry you may be with someone who let you down, do not vilify them. It didn’t work out. They may have completely disappointed you. They may have put in so little effort it was ridiculous. They may have been unwilling to accept direction or criticism. But that doesn’t necessarily make them a “bad” person who you need to talk trash about. Best to keep your thoughts to yourself and move on. It will help you and them. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about why you are letting someone go (if that is what happens). They need to know so they don’t repeat it in their next job.
  2. Be more careful in your hiring. I’ve always been one who likes to spot talent in people. I also care about the situation some people are in – people who I think are good people. As a result, sometimes I will take a chance on someone who perhaps I shouldn’t be taking a chance on. Sometimes that works out beautifully and I can feel good. Sometimes it doesn’t and I feel bad. The important lesson, though, is to be very careful in your hiring. Don’t be blinded by your desire to help someone. Look at their past work experience. Did they get fired or quit from each job? What led to that? Look past the resume for tell-tale signs of what has led them to where they are now. And pay attention to those signs!
  3. Be compassionate. Don’t give up on the person. Your job and work environment may have been ill-suited for them but that doesn’t mean all jobs and environments are. If you can still help these people, you should try to. Best to keep everyone being friends to the extent it’s possible and not have anyone out there taking potshots at you or your company. Plus, the truth is, some of these people could easily land at a client organization where they could really cause you some trouble!
  4. Let it go. Stop obsessing about why things didn’t work out and move on. Everyone has to do this to heal the emotional wounds and free their minds for whatever lies ahead. Take the lead on forgiveness. Take the high road every time.

Let’s face it, we’re all going to get let down by an employee at some point in time. The point is to acknowledge that – not accepting it as normal, but learning from it – so we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1196 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.