There is an unwritten HR law that needs to be addressed. This law states: “If you fire an employee, at no time in the history of mankind should you hire back that employee to your organization.”
So it is said, so shall it be…
I was reading an article recently about ESPN’s new CEO, John Skipper, when he was asked about bringing back former polarizing Sports Center anchor Keith Olbermann. Here’s what Skipper had to say about the possibility of bringing back Olbermann:
I wasn’t here when Keith was here, but he is very talented. So I had dinner with Keith — it was delightful and fun. And I would not have had dinner with him if we didn’t sit around and think about whether there was a reason to bring Keith back. I haven’t met with him again, but we don’t have a policy here that you can never come back.”
The unwritten rule thing
So, ESPN doesn’t have a policy about bringing back terminated employees. Do you?
I know of companies that actually have it written into the policy manual about bringing back terminated employees. Sometimes it’s a time thing (“it has to be more than five years”), or a position thing (“it has to be into a different position than they had previously”), or a severity thing (“the termination could not have been for cause”), etc.
Sometimes, it’s just the classic unwritten rule thing!
Regardless if it’s written or unwritten, any organization that refuses to hire back terminated employees is extremely shortsighted. Let’s be clear: I’m not saying your should bring back the jerk who embezzled money or sexually harassed every female employee. What I am saying is that if you analyzed every single termination you’ve had over the past 10 years in your organization, there are probably some really good hire-backs in that group!
But you wouldn’t know that, because it’s not something you’re going to do – it’s a policy …err…un-policy thing!
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3 reasons you should hire someone back
Here are three (3) reasons you of when you should potentially hire back a previously terminated employee:
- They’re the best at what they do. Yep, talent and performance trumps all. Well, mostly! If the person got fired for some kind of behavior that they can’t or won’t change, well, it will end badly again. But many times, having years away and proving themselves all over again in another organization makes these folks ultra-valuable again to your organization.
- New leadership. Let’s face facts – a large percentage of your terminations happen because of personalities not matching. In almost every leadership change, organizations see high turnover. This doesn’t truly mean those leaving are bad employees; it’s just a phenomenon that happens when new leadership and ideas meet old leadership behaviors and ideas — and they don’t match.
- Former employee and you (your organization and leadership) have had significant growth. I’ve seen some young, less experienced people get fired, who were completely different people 5 -10 years later. All of that blind fight and energy that had when they were younger, and which distracted from their talent, is gone. What you have left is this focused, high performing employee. By the same token, our leader who was less experienced and didn’t know how to handle high potential employees, now does. Growth happens.
Missing out on great talent
Unfortunately, 99 percent of organizations refuse to bring back an employee who was fired, ever!
It’s too bad, really. You’re probably missing out on some great talent, especially if you’re in a smaller geographic area with limited talent pools to begin with.
Sometimes it’s up to our organizations to become a little more open minded to the fact that change happens, and, that not every person who gets fired is a bad employee.