Background Checks Don't Tell You Everything
March 3, 2015
Both the employer and potential new hires have responsibilities when it comes to making a decision for a job. It is never just a new employee or a paycheck for someone. The employer is bringing a new person into its business family and the employee has agreed to come in and learn the nuances of unfamiliar territory.
The new beginning or honeymoon stage is a learning period of adjustment for both. Over the years, I have learned that despite how comfortable new hires appear, never overwhelm them with the thorny side of things until they have had time to adjust to new surroundings. I realize whenever we think someone "Gets It," we try and fast-track them.
However, when it comes to morning or entertainment shows, psychological factors can play a huge role in how the newbie perceives acceptance among his new workmates. All I am saying is to tread lightly with ensemble shows.
Getting all the members to work like a finely tuned engine takes patience. In the beginning, I suggest a one-on-one with the newbie immediately following the ensemble's critique session. This will help focus on positive reinforcement above and beyond whatever went on in the group session.
Remember, the new employee does not know you anymore than you really know them.
New employees should never assume and never listen to hearsay during those first months of employment. If you feel uncomfortable or need clarification of any sort, go to the person responsible for hiring you and confide in them. Both of you are invested in making this new relationship work.
Recently I spoke with a PD who faced a situation with unexpected short term results.
PD: Coach let me ask you something, when you programmed, did you ever have an employee quit less than five weeks after you hired them?
Coach: Yes, a couple of times with part-timers who left for good reason -- both were offered full-time employment with other stations. So it was more than understandable. Once I had a producer in between programing jobs quit a six-figure salary for no other reason other than and I, quote, "I don't think based on my skills, I am being allowed to contribute to the direction of the morning show."
PD: No sh#t!
Coach: Oh it gets better; he just didn't show up for work one morning and the morning crew called to tell me at 5a. I got on the phone to find out what was up and the gentleman eventually returned a call and told me he had a family emergency and had to drive to his sister's house which was a 10-hour drive. Believe it or not he was not heading to another job; he did not work for another seven months. He eventually sent an e-mail explaining he felt under-utilized. This despite the fact the COO and I explained to him exactly what we needed him to do. It was really strange and like I said, we were paying him six figures to basically babysit the morning show to keep them on track with the daily game plan.
PD: Well Sam, I have got one to top that. There are so many quality morning people out of work. I took my time to find just the right person to insert into the existing show. I needed a spark plug with versatility on the air and a person well versed in using social media. After a lot of phone interviews, we narrowed it down to three people and flew all of them in for interviews.
Coach: I hate to cut you off, but was this for the lead position on the show?
PD: No, it was for a strong #2 person. My lead just needed someone strong to work off of to go along with the young lady who is a local comic.
Coach: Okay, gotcha, go on with your story.
PD: All the interviews went well, but one guy stood just a touch ahead of the rest. His background included TV and print journalism. Corporate did a background check and were a part of the interview process. We all came to the conclusion that he was our man. He also had production skills, knew his way around social media, and even had built a couple of websites for others. He was working part-time in a medium-sized market in the Southeast and seemed pretty excited about the chance of getting back into a large market. Part of the reason he was working at that station was because he was taking care of his mom because his dad had died earlier in the year.
Coach: When was this?
PD: Just this last year. Anyway, instead of making us wait, corporate allowed us to hire him in December. I wanted to get him in and have him ship-shape with the rest of the morning members by mid-January. My new phenom was scheduled to come in on December 5th. After agreeing to the date in the 1st week of November, he called the Monday of the week he was scheduled to come and asked if he could change that to the week before Christmas. The reason was based on something concerning his mother's house.
Coach: Was his mother sick?
PD: No, it had to do with finishing up some kind of renovation. He was an only child and after his dad died, she needed his strength. So we understood since several of us had lost parents in recent years. So he came.
Coach: Sorry, but can you give this person a name, I understand why you are not using his, but just call him something.
PD: Okay, Mr. X came to town and blended in beautifully with the morning show and everyone in the cluster was impressed with him, especially sales. Mr. X did a couple of remotes and totally impressed the clients and the salesperson. In fact, the Sales Manager told me in front of everyone at the Managers meeting what a great hire I had made.
Coach: You are painting a picture of bliss so far; when did the wheels fall off the wagon?
PD: It was with little stuff, which I pretty much put to growing pains of a new player inserted into an existing morning cast of characters. Mind you, the anchor occasionally needed to be reeled in, but that happens. To cut to the chase, Mr. X asked me if he could fly home because his mother was having some kind of problem. So I told him sure. He left Thursday morning. Then after a total of five weeks and just before the last direct deposit into Mr. X's bank account, he sent an email of resignation at 3a Friday morning to the Market Manager. I never even got copied. The Market Manager called me immediately when he read it at 7:30 in the morning.
Coach: That's insane, did the e-mail say why? Did he take another job? Wasn't he under contract? There has to be some logical explanation. Out of curiosity, how much were you paying him?
PD: Mr. X was getting $110,000 plus bonuses. And, nope, it didn't involve another job, he just thanked us for the opportunity and never said anything else at the time. And his mom had even come had come to town and seemed to love what she saw. She even thanked me for hiring her son.
Coach: I am waiting for the real explanation; he never said anything to you or anyone else as a tip off?
PD: Not one word. I am telling you, in all my years, I have never been so fooled by anyone. However, Mr. X did finally reach out and sent me an e-mail with a half-baked story, but to be fair, might be true. Here is a portion what he had to say.
I wanted to reach out and give you more of a detailed explanation as to why I left so suddenly last Friday. Like it said in my e-mail, there were a variety of reasons. But first off, I wanted to thank you -- not only for the opportunity -- but for allowing me the two days off to come home and see about my mom and my dog. Unfortunately, seeing my dog in such a degraded state and my mom sick did influence my decision, but it wasn't the only reason.
It became jarringly obvious that paying both rent and a mortgage was going to be more of a challenge than I originally expected. My time spent living in xxxx was far from comfortable and I wasn't sure when that was going to improve. After moving from the Extend Stay the station paid for during my first two weeks here, I was limited by finances and credit troubles in where I could live. I was turned down for one apartment because of those reasons and it made me reluctant to keep applying. So for the past six weeks, I've been at the Budget Stay, near the station. While it is a clean place, it's a little sketchy in terms of other residents. Its proximity to work made it convenient, but given my money situation, affording a real apartment was not a possibility and I knew I would have to stay at the Budget Stay for at least another two months.
2. My Fear
I know there was a lot of urgency and anxiety in launching the new morning show, and you, D##, and others were trying to get the best out of me and the gang, but when people start yelling, threatening disciplinary action, creating paper trails and fostering a tense work environment, those tactics make me want to go in the other direction. I've worked in hostile environments before and it's detrimental to my well-being. If the pressures from back home weren't so pressing, I would have absolutely been willing to tough out the situation for much, much longer. Every manager (yourself included) all seem like great individuals. Yet, when I hear that I'm being called "hard-headed" and demonstrating "Male diva behavior" (during our third week!), from those I have to answer to daily, it added much more stress to an already stress-heavy plate in front of me.
In summary, I apologize to you and the company for making two, hasty decisions. I should not have accepted the job knowing it would be a hardship on everyone. And I should have been more forthcoming about the reasons why I left. XXXX is a fantastic place to work and you certainly don't have to worry about me badmouthing you or the company. The timing of how things played out was awful, but in the end, I have to look out for the people at home first. As the #2 on your morning show, I could have really made some noise; I believe that 100%. But leaving my mom and my girlfriend to take care of my responsibilities -- in addition to their own -- was selfish of me. Again, I am very sorry and wish you and your company much, much success."
Coach: That is wild, and from everything you said, there was no way of foreseeing this. Was there tension with the show?
PD: Honestly, none of us could figure out what he was referring to. We had critique sessions and I never threatened anyone one with disciplinary anything. I even asked the other members of the morning show if I said anything that could have been misinterpreted and they said no. Mr. X's apparently lives in a parallel universe and the slightest suggestion of how to do something better was too much. I go out of my way to balance praise with concerns. I am telling you he had things going on in his head that nobody, including corporate, saw. It's too bad because he has so much talent.
Coach: What is your next move?
PD: I am going to try and make it a three-person show and work with the comic to step into the #2 role.
Coach: I wish you luck and do not second-guess yourself. Be like a quarterback who throws three interceptions and manages to finally throw the winning touchdown. It sounds like you and your company were thorough in the background check and hiring of Mr. X. If it helps, I think I would have been fooled, too.