All Articles Leadership Why your bright new hire is underperforming

Why your bright new hire is underperforming

3 min read


You were blown away during his job interview. His rich work history is filled to the brim with amazing accomplishments. And he comes highly recommended with references upon references.

Now, several months in, your shining star is falling way below your high expectations. What’s the deal? It’s time to face the possibility that you may be part of the problem.

1. You aren’t giving the employee enough autonomy to be smart

Steven Lowell recently quit a job, where he was specifically brought in for his knowledge and expertise, after six years.

“After being hired, I had to check my credibility at the door,” Lowell says. “For all the knowledge I had, I was barely listened to and micromanaged into a position where I only spoke when requested and if I agreed with the boss.”

There are few ways faster than micromanaging to suck the enthusiasm out of an employee. By controlling every detail, you strip away the creativity, fresh perspective and confidence. These are the very qualities for which you hired your star employee. Where’s the trust? Employers, conversations about autonomy are worth having with your employees.

2. You are too focused on establishing your authority

Some star employees find that managers may feel threatened by bright, new talent.

For instance, “I’ve seen managers deny personal time to employees for no other reason than to establish who is boss,” says Steve Silberberg, owner at

Two words: power trip.

At least that’s what it seems like when you arbitrarily write off requests, projects or ideas with no explanation. You will get better results if you take just a minute to walk employees through your decisions, regardless of whether you worry about establishing authority. Treating employees as lesser people is a surefire way to breed resentment and poor performance.

3. You aren’t setting clear expectations

Your smart, skilled employees may be falling short of your expectations because, well, they don’t know what your expectations are, says Roberta Matuson, the talent maximizer at Matuson Consulting.

A mutual understanding of agreed-upon benchmarks, goals and vision is the key to managing expectations. There’s no other way.

Silberberg has seen this common managerial blunder particularly in the programming field. Some managers “get frustrated with code that is ‘almost there,’ because they sample it at some arbitrary point,” Silberberg says. Instead of allowing the coder to move forward to complete the overhaul or enhancements, the manager will “turn back the clock and throw out days or weeks of development in order to go back to a stable, far less functional state.”

You need “to provide continuous feedback to your people and go over expectations,” Matuson says, “even if you think it should be obvious.”

4. You hired a company cultural misfit

“A poor culture fit is the biggest hurdle for a new employee to clear,” says Charley Polachi, partner at Polachi Access Executive Search. “Even a seasoned player can’t play their A game if the new culture is not what they expected.”

That’s why it’s critical to for you as the manager to portray the authentic environment accurately during the interview instead of presenting an inaccurate portrait of your company, he says.

In most cases, you simply can’t fit a square into a circle. So it’s up to you to decide just how flexible you are willing to be with your smart, cultural misfit.

Ritika Trikha writes at, a job-information website that helps people find happiness in the workplace.