Holding them Accountable


Is it HR’s role to hold hiring managers accountable for bad hires?   The aspect of holding them accountable came up at a recent speaking engagement.   The situation seemed simple enough.   One of the HR professionals present stated that my thoughts on the simplicity of terminations and my thoughts on accountability were contradictory.

I believe in accountability; that everyone owns the decisions that they make and each and every person is accountable and holds an obligation to accept responsibility for one’s actions.   And that frankly lays the ground work for stating that terminations can be simple.   When individuals know what they are accountable for and make decisions contrary to those accountabilities they own the results and the consequences.

The contradictory part of the discussion surrounded holding a hiring manager accountable for a bad hire rather than supporting a swift decision on dealing with the situation quickly and effectively.   So again, I ask: is it HR’s role to hold the hiring manager accountable or is it HR’s role to support the decision and provide assistance to move forward productively for the sake of the business?

Here’s the story: A bad hire was made.  The HR leader did not see eye to eye with the hiring manager’s decision on which candidate to hire for the role.   The HR leader, rightfully so, had voiced their concern, provided the supporting data, provided better and more suited candidates [both in competency and character] and yet their concerns were dismissed and so were the other [better] candidates.  We can all understand the disappointment and the demoralization.  The HR leader was not heard – not respected – their expertise was not trusted, and perhaps neither was their value as a business partner.

A few months later, the hiring manager came to see everything that their HR leader cautioned them about and ultimately came to the same conclusions: that this was not a great addition to their team.  This was not a good hire, so back to the well – back to HR to 1) help to terminate the individual and 2) find a replacement.

This is where the holding them accountable part comes in – the HR professional wanted to hold them accountable for the bad hire not make it simple for them, or let them off easy and just terminate and replace.

There is no doubt that handling this takes finesse, it truly tests the boundaries of being the bigger person and it takes understanding the short game [gain] and the long game [bigger gain].  First – the short game – a gain to hubris only:  We are envisioning the Five Man Electrical Band’s song:  You were absolutely right, you were right all along, you were absolutely right I was wrong blaring from the office speakers as the hiring manager enters your office enlisting your help.  Being right feels good, however voicing it with our outside voice can dilute one’s position as a trusted partner.

Wanting to be right and voicing it, sets up a culture of punishment for incorrect decisions versus establishing a culture that accepts the making of mistakes followed by the ability of learning from them; this is a long game strategy and the establishment of better leadership and a character based culture.   The long game is the better game.  The hubris nature that can envelope us all actually doesn’t have to carry out – we can  step up and stay focused to being the leader that understands what is ultimately the most important aspect of our work – to supports the business each and every time.

The long game builds relationships especially with the hiring manager. Relationships are built through dialogue – a perfect opportunity to discuss what the hiring manager ultimately saw and correlate that to what you saw and heard during the interviewing process.  This open dialogue moment provides that opportunity to build what HR partners want most – a trusted business relationship with those they serve.

Trust is garnered when the other person deems you worthy of their trust and not a moment before.  This could be that moment that starts you on the path of being deemed worthy of trust – trust in your recommendations, trust in your data and definitely trust in your expertise as a professional. The long game consistently provides the data some people need to prove HR is valued, respected, trusted and exalted as true business partners.   In other words it build trust in you as a peer, together supporting the growth of the business.

What’s most important – to remind them they made a mistake or to remind them that you are there to support?  It’s not up to HR to hold hiring managers accountable.  That’s not your role.  The role of HR, especially in the recruiting phase, is to provide the best candidates, data, advice and recommendations in order to support the continued growth of the team and company.  These are the factors that ensure you are deemed worthy of trust.  Ownership on decision made belong to the hiring manager and no one else – it’s their team and they alone, own decisions and results or lack thereof.   The hiring managers are held accountable for their decisions by their bosses, not HR.

HR’s role is to be the business partner and you can reinforce your partnership by reminding them you are there to support them throughout the honeymoon phase regardless of your agreement or lack thereof of the decision made.  Once a decision has been made, help the business move on.  If a course correction needs to be made – help the business to move through this swiftly – don’t judge – provide guidance.

Delaying the course correction process is breeding grounds for frustration to grow and it doesn’t bode well for any of the people involved or the business as a whole.   The standard process of keeping underperformers while a hiring manager goes through the hoops of documentation and/or providing coaching/further training for the underperformer does nothing to address the continued demoralizing of your high potentials as they continue working with that underperformer or unqualified candidate. All it does is highlight HR as a bottleneck, place blame and alienate the HR practitioner and the department they come from.

Looking at the long game is always looking at what is best for the business, so, support the request for help in finding solutions.  It is a great way to build that rapport with the hiring manager – they likely will listen to you, your opinions, data, and expertise all on their own from then on.

Everyone makes mistakes – even hiring managers.    Allow this to be an opportunity to learn.  Churchill’s quote comes to mind:   “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes”.   It is in the learnings that change happens.  It is in the learning that relationships are built.  That is where trust lives.

To the individual that caused me to pause – my most sincere thank you!   Always a great learning opportunity to be more distinctive with my thoughts and words and I hope this post provides you with new insights.

Want to learn more?   Contact us or Register for our 2 day leadership program on Trust and Leader Character at: loretta@genesis-em.com

Loretta Biscaro Smith is the founder of Genesis Executive Management Inc.  A consulting firm that specializes in, Leadership Development, and Executive Coaching.     loretta@genesis-em.com  





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