Quick to fire or leave no employee behind?

Quick to hire and quick to fire, right?  

The last thing that you want, conventional wisdom says, is to be carrying around dead weight on a team--or harboring a disruptive employee.  Bad hires can cause your best people to want to leave.  It can slow down productivity. 

I agree that one person can do a disproportionate amount of damage within a company, but does that always have to be the case?  And, does relying on the nuclear option of getting rid of someone create the wrong kind of culture--and perhaps even a management laziness to work things out.

"Quick to fire" seems to take the following as given:

  1. We are likely to do a bad job of screening upfront.
  2. There is such a thing as an "A+" player that can work in *any* environment.
  3. Our employees are unlikely to learn.

These things don't feel right to me.  First off, what's going on with your upfront hiring process that you're adding people to your team that can't do the job?  Is knowing that if they don't work out you'll just get rid of them causing carelessness on the front end?  Are people just throwing their hands up and conceding that you can't create a process whereby you can figure out whether or not someone will succeed in your environment?  Do you even know what it takes to be successful in your environment?

Sometimes, people stumble out of the block.  It's hard to both simultaneously build up all the social ties you need within your company, make a great professional first impression, and then learn your new job all at the same time.  If you have a culture where anyone other than an "A+" player is going to be a goner, are your teammates going to leave you for dead?  Why bother helping this person succeed if you know your investment of time is likely to get their ass booted out the door by the end of the week?  That feels like bad culture.

Plus, it places 100% of the blame on the candidate--when I often feel like employees that didn't work out are often mismanaged, expectations aren't communicated, and there's a general lack of process within a company.  Wouldn't the ideal company be one where you could plug just about anyone into a role--a system--and they could be successful?

Some successful sports teams seem to breed not only cultures of success, but systems.  Neutral zone trap.  West coast offense.  It almost didn't matter who you plugged in as long as they fit some kind of basic criteria for the kind of player that fits within the system.  Why does that seem to work for teams and not for startups?

There are some startups, like Foursquare and Singleplatform, where team success and the education and support of the employee seem to be an important value of the company.  With Foursquare, it starts from the top down--where many people didn't think Dennis Crowley was the type of guy who could run a 150 person company.  Instead of just replacing him as CEO at the first chance they got, the investors of the company helped create a culture of mentoring and training that started at the executive level.  Admitting failure or just not knowing what to do became acceptable--and prevented a culture of fear.  

Turnover is bad for companies.  Other employees don't see it as retooling with the best people or optimizing.  It kills morale.  Some of the people that you think might need to go are also people who have built social relationships within the company, even over a short period of time.  Constantly tearing these apart causes people to retract--to be less likely to build important network ties or feel loyalty to a company that generally doesn't show much loyalty to its employees.

Certainly, there are going to be situations where one sneaks past the goalie--where an employee just really can't hack it or get along with others, and they need to be asked to leave.  However, I think what might be a bigger issue than people are willing to admit is the general lack of management skills of new founders, especially first timers--and the lack of processes and communication channels that solve problems before they become unmanageable.  

Being quick to fire just seems like the easy way out--and I wonder about the long term effects it has on a company.  Trying to work out differences and striving to make every employee successful?  Seems potentially a fantasy and maybe harder than it's worth in a startup environment where resources are scarce.  

Still, something tells me its at least worth thinking about how you'd run your company if you did, in fact, believe anyone *could* be successful working within your system.