Who’s the worst employee you ever hired?

Anonymous because I don’t know who reads Quora.

Employee the first: my replacement

I wanted to go down a rung on the career ladder – a strategic move in order to switch to a different ladder. I had gone from development team lead / senior to development manager and wanted to go back to team lead / senior in order that I could focus on my development skills with the eventual plan of migrating to other technologies, languages, etc… and furthering my software development career.

Whilst not a direct hire, I was on the ‘panel’ and a part of the interview process – the panel consisted of the CEO, a director, a consultant and myself. The guy ticked the vast majority of the boxes we were looking for to replace the management portion of my job (for a higher salary than I was earning for all portions of my job, I might add).

It took less than a month before his constant “I don’t know how to do this” had turned in to me doing his job and him taking the credit. Every request from the CEO had turned in to him proxying the request to me.

He agreed at the end of the month that the role wasn’t for him.

Employee the second: a subordinate

I interviewed a guy and had someone interview him as a second set of eyes. He had a portfolio of work that looked reasonably impressive for the salary we were offering and he seemed like a nice guy. He passed the first stage.

I sent a small development task to him to get more of a feel for his capabilities before offering the role just to be sure he was a good fit and had the required abilities. The task came back even more impressive than the portfolio.

Sold! He is hired.

Day 1: Mostly inductions, setting up his development environment, going over the company, policies, etc…

Day 2: More inductions and a tutorial for how to use our product from a very high level – mostly to get terminology.

Day 3: Brief catch-up to see how he was finding the people, the environment, etc… to invite him to lunch (with all new recruits in my department I organise a pub lunch in the first week in order the everyone can chat freely without anyone coming in and distrupting). I mention that his task came back a mile above the other applications and that’s when it happens. Paraphrasing, but he said

“I was struggling with the task, so I got someone to write it for me”

I did a double, triple and quadruple take. I’m sorry, what? It wasn’t your work?

“No, I was really struggling with it so I got someone on the internet to write it for me. I thought I’d be able to learn on the job”

Day 4: Spent the first half of the day telling him character by character what to type in order to produce basic code. The afternoon was a blur – notifying HR that he was being let go and prepping a termination letter.

Day 5: “I’m sorry, this isn’t working out”

Employee the third: another subordinate

As before, there was myself and, this time a director, that interviewed this guy. He was really, really charismatic – beaming smiles, laughter, volunteers with various charities and schools. The interview couldn’t have gone better.

He was hired and almost immediately on his first day he opened gmail, Whatsapp (Web) and another messenger. He made/received probably 8 phone calls in the first day and every time I’d ask how he is getting on with his tutorial, he would need to switch back from one of the aforementioned in order to show me progress.

In the first week I sat down and asked him not to use those things during working hours. I’m fine with a phone call or two, and he can message all he likes during his lunch break (and during working hours, within reason!) but it can’t be all day.

In the second week I had complaints from other team members that he was constantly out of the room on the phone. Whenever they passed his desk he was on a messenger of some description. I had a slightly more stern conversation.

“…but, I have freelance clients that I need to communicate with during the day because they aren’t available out of hours”

The next day he was signed off from work by the doctor for anxiety, stress and depression. Two weeks later he returned to work and on his first day back made three phone calls by lunch time.

Clearly this behaviour is not one he is prepared to change. I had to let him go. The strangest part was he was happy to be let go and even, cheekily, tried to get me to say it was due to his mental state and sickness. I refused and confirmed it was for his constant misuse of company time, despite two warnings from myself and one in my absence from a director within the space of two weeks – he called me a liar and said there was no way I had seen him on his phone that day because he made no phone calls. I wasn’t the only one that saw it though as when I notified accounts of his departure asked if he was the guy on his phone all morning.

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