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Post: What to Do When an Employee is Not the Right Fit



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Onboarding a new hire isn’t always a seamless process. Sometimes new employees need time to adjust to their new work environment, but sometimes it’s just not a great fit. As a leader, this is one of the most sensitive and challenging scenarios you could face. Whether it’s due to an insufficient skillset, incompatible work style, or mismatched aspirations, these situations can disrupt team dynamics. Not to mention undermine productivity and lower overall morale. The fallout from handling the situation can be significant if not managed carefully.

Yet, having an employee who isn’t a good fit for their job isn’t the end of the world. In this article, you’ll learn what to do when an employee is struggling to adapt to their new role.


Workplace Compatibility

There are many things to consider when hiring new employees. For one, their specific skill set and experience level come into play. It can dictate how comfortable they may feel stepping into a new position at work. Secondly, employee personalities have an impact on how cooperative they’ll be with coworkers.

The workplace culture you create at your company sets the standard for employee expectations. When hiring new employees, the compatibility between their characteristics and your company’s values should be one of your top priorities. Hiring an employee who isn’t a good fit can negatively impact profits, productivity, and even the morale of your other employees.

Signs an Employee is Not a Good Fit

Frequent Disputes

One telltale sign that an employee isn’t compatible with your workplace is frequent disputes with coworkers and management. This can also manifest as difficulty handling customer complaints in work environments where customer service plays a pivotal role in each workday.

It’s relatively normal for employees to experience occasional communication issues or disagreements. However, when an employee isn’t a good fit for your company, you may notice that they happen to be at the helm of most workplace conflicts. Rather than focusing on workplace performance, your other employees might be focused on the problematic individual.

An employee that is a bad fit for your company may be socially avoided by their coworkers, or conversely, employees may fear them. If an employee has a naturally volatile or demanding personality, it can induce stress all around. All of which can lead to decreased morale and wasted time spent on mediating petty arguments.

Workplace conflict costs your company money and productivity as well. Managers in workplaces with frequent conflict spend about 15% of their time resolving disputes. That’s precious time lost to entirely preventable problems.

Resistance to Feedback

Everyone makes mistakes; that’s just a fact of life. The difference between a great employee and a not-so-great one is how they handle the consequences of those mistakes. A reliable employee responds to feedback with an eagerness to improve. On the other hand, an employee that’s a poor fit for your company might respond with stubbornness or refusal to try a new strategy.

Employees that regularly push back against feedback are quick to stagnate. Sometimes, they’ll even double down on the original behavior as a defense mechanism. The problem with this is that feedback is a necessity in the workplace. Not only is it unavoidable, but it’s critical in maintaining a set standard for employee performance. Rather than see it as a personal attack, better employees will seize the opportunity to improve themselves.

Inconsistent Communication

Employees who fail to communicate regularly might not be an ideal match for your company. Communication is key in any workplace, regardless of industry. It’s important that employees feel secure enough in their position to communicate openly, both with coworkers and supervisors.

Poor Attendance

Reliability is the foundation upon which better employees are built. Even if an employee is a top performer with a critical role in the workplace, they’re only as valuable as they are reliable. Employees who aren’t a good fit for your company might miss work more than their peers. Also, they often seem to have countless excuses when confronted about it.

Right Person, Wrong Role

Everyone has unique capabilities, and sometimes an employee’s assigned role reflects poorly on them due to no direct fault of their own. This can be described as a “right person, wrong role” situation.

For example, you may have hired someone as a customer service representative. Then, perhaps you realize they’re not connecting with clients the way you’d like. However, you might be surprised to find that they’re excellent at organizing data instead. In this scenario, the best solution might be to simply switch their role to something that better suits them.


What to Do When an Employee is Not the Right Fit

It’s important to know that just because an employee isn’t a great fit, it doesn’t mean you have to lose hope altogether. There are ways to manage the situation before drastic action becomes necessary.

Start a Dialogue

The first and perhaps most important thing you can do to turn things around is to initiate a dialogue between you and your employee. A little communication goes a long way. When you sit down with your employee to discuss their behavior, try to take on a compassionate tone. Employees respond better when they feel adequately supported by management.

It’s wise to hold this conversation in a private place when there’s ample time to discuss everything without rushing. Privately voice your concerns with your employee and use real-life examples of their behavior to tie your concerns with reality. This will help encourage accountability.

Ask your employee what they need from you and your team to meet your expectations, and make those expectations as clear as you can. Hear them out and be open to listening about their own side of the situation. Try to find a resolution by making a plan together for improvement.

Role Reassignment

Sometimes, the problem is the role, not the employee. If you’ve noticed your employee struggles in one particular area but excels in another, offer them the opportunity to temporarily try out a new role. If your employee genuinely wants to improve and become a better fit, they’ll likely take you up on the offer.

During the transition into the temporary role, try to exude patience and support. Ideally, your employee might discover that this new position is a much better fit for them, which benefits your company as well.

Supportive Mentorship

If an employee continues to struggle despite intervention, it might be time to try a new tactic. One method that may help is mentorship. This strategy is a little more desperate but can be effective as long as the employee in question is open to feedback and change.

Assign a mentor, or a fellow employee (usually with more experience) to the employee that’s struggling. Have them spend their time together at work while the mentor coaches the employee. If you prefer, you can even choose to mentor an employee yourself as their supervisor. Make sure that the mentorship is not condescending or dismissive, but instead focuses on skill building and receiving support.

Provide Additional Training Opportunities

Another option you may wish to explore is providing growth and learning opportunities to a struggling employee. An employee who wants to improve and values their position will jump on the opportunity. However, a problematic employee might resist the change.

Sometimes employees have a difficult time understanding the intricacies of their role. But, they genuinely wish to succeed. In this situation, offering learning opportunities can be a major game-changer.

Some examples of learning opportunities include educational seminars, conference meetings, and additional training sessions. These events can encourage your employee to grow and learn with your company if they’re motivated to do so.

Letting Go

Sometimes, an employee is just not a good fit for your company, and there’s nothing you can do besides let them go. Although it isn’t ideal, it can save you and your company significant time and productivity. Employees that struggle with severe issues such as failure to communicate, resistance to feedback, and unreliability might be better off finding work somewhere else.

There are specific steps you should take to fire an underperforming employee. Be sure to handle this situation delicately as well.


There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your current employees and your company’s productivity. Sometimes letting go of a troublesome employee is the best decision you can make in the long run. As long as you try to support and encourage them, you’ve done everything in your power to help. Beyond that, it’s up to the employee themselves to raise the bar.

Ari Bratsis

Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Productivity · Your Mindset

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