THE IDEAL CANDIDATE© (Cont'd)
"The guy I intended to hire was a different man. His name was Mark Simon, not Simmons. When I called this Mark with the offer, I must've picked up the wrong file. He had a cold when I called, so I didn't notice the difference in voice. I was so excited when he accepted that I just handed the papers to Sue to type an offer letter. She handled the rest and I forgot about it. Joan, I don't know how to say this, but the guy sitting out there is the last person I would hire. He's a total jerk–and a weirdo on top of it. He's okay technically, but during the interview he started preaching all this religious stuff to me and asked me about my church and being saved. We are in deep shit here."
Joan was stunned. She could usually solve problems, but this one was a doozy.
"It's not like I can say, `Whoops, sorry we offered you the job by mistake. You can go back to your cult or wherever you came from.' I mean Joan, this guy resigned from a perfectly good job. I'm stuck, I tell you, stuck! I've just hired the employee from hell!" he gasped, fearing what loomed ahead.
Ted was stuck. Joan quickly assessed that the only way out of this one was a major settlement, which the company could not afford. They were going to have to make the best of it. "Tell you what, Ted, I'll reschedule part of his orientation until you can collect yourself. Then we'll pow wow on how to approach this realistically."
"Fine, Joan, whatever you say. Just get him out of here until I figure out what to do."
Joan made some excuses to Mark about a temporary research crisis that required Ted's immediate attention and caused a schedule change. She ushered Mark down the hall and sent him to the Benefits Department to sign papers and get acquainted with health and life coverages. When Joan returned to Ted's office, she noticed that the color had returned to his face and he seemed drier above the lip. He was fumbling with a paper clip when it slipped from his hand and flew across the room. Joan coughed quietly to let him know of her presence.
"Okay, here's our strategy," she began, "you have to give this guy a chance to do the job. You've got to be professional one hundred percent of the way. However, you have to follow policy to the letter and document any performance issues, conversations, everything. If he's as bad as you say, he'll write his own ticket, and he'll be gone at little cost to us within ninety days. Now I know that this means you won't be able to delegate the new Fragmore research project to him. Since we don't have any other reasonable alternatives, you'll just have to honcho the project yourself, at least for the next three months. That's the best I can come up with."
Joan's strategy worked. Mark created a series of disruptive incidents, one of which involved clipping passages from the Bible and putting them on employees' desks. Ted counseled and warned Mark that his behavior was inappropriate. Ted also pointed out that the company had a `no distribution, no solicitation' policy, which meant that only company-approved literature could be circulated in the workplace. Fortunately for Ted, Mark ignored these warnings. Mark continued to disseminate religious literature. Employees complained that Mark was harassing them with his constant barrage of religious pamphlets. He also cornered co-workers during breaks and lunch and launched into intense discussions about religious philosophy. If they didn't agree with his views, Mark would assure them that he would pray for them. As each week progressed, Mark walled in his work station with religious pictures and symbols. He attempted to snare passersby to discuss his fondness for these religious objects. After repeated verbal and written warnings, Ted fired Mark. The mission was accomplished in less than sixty days, and Ted's blood pressure returned to normal.
This is a classic example of why an employment offer should always come from the Human Resources Department. Too many things–compensation packages, health and welfare benefits, and relocation plans–can be misunderstood. When this happens, the employee feels deceived or cheated, which can sour the employment relationship from the start.
An additional precaution against mis-hiring is to make an offer contingent on the successful completion of a physical. This gives the company one last chance to check out the candidate before he or she leaves his current employment.
Joan and Ted's concern over potential legal repercussions if Mark had been denied employment was justified. Such a decision could well have led Mark to sue the company, alleging that the offer was fraudulent or the company was negligent and that he suffered serious damage by losing his former position. In addition, this story presents a potential issue of discrimination on the basis of religious belief. While it appears that Mark went overboard, an employee may not be discharged or harassed because of his religion and is entitled to some flexibility in expressing his views about religion in the workplace. The company had a duty to accommodate his religious beliefs. But if Mark began to interfere with operations, annoyed co-workers by proselytizing, or engaged in similar conduct, the company would not be legally obligated to continue to employ him indefinitely
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©
On May 18th I'll be speaking to the Association of Legal Administrators at their national conference in Nashville, TN on How to Strategically Hire Superstars