3 Good Reasons You Should Re-Hire Someone You Fired

There is an unwritten HR law that needs to be addressed. This law states: “If you fire an employee, at no time in the history of mankind should you hire back that employee to your organization.”

So it is said, so shall it be…

I was reading an article recently about ESPN’s new CEO, John Skipper, when he was asked about bringing back former polarizing Sports Center anchor Keith Olbermann. Here’s what Skipper had to say about the possibility of bringing back Olbermann:

I wasn’t here when Keith was here, but he is very talented. So I had dinner with Keith — it was delightful and fun. And I would not have had dinner with him if we didn’t sit around and think about whether there was a reason to bring Keith back. I haven’t met with him again, but we don’t have a policy here that you can never come back.”

The unwritten rule thing

So, ESPN doesn’t have a policy about bringing back terminated employees. Do you?

I know of companies that actually have it written into the policy manual about bringing back terminated employees. Sometimes it’s a time thing (“it has to be more than five years”), or a position thing (“it has to be into a different position than they had previously”), or a severity thing (“the termination could not have been for cause”), etc.

Sometimes, it’s just the classic unwritten rule thing!

Regardless if it’s written or unwritten, any organization that refuses to hire back terminated employees is extremely shortsighted. Let’s be clear:  I’m not saying your should bring back the jerk who embezzled money or sexually harassed every female employee. What I am saying is that if you analyzed every single termination you’ve had over the past 10 years in your organization, there are probably some really good hire-backs in that group!

But you wouldn’t know that, because it’s not something you’re going to do – it’s a policy …err…un-policy thing!

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3 reasons you should hire someone back

Here are three (3) reasons you of when you should potentially hire back a previously terminated employee:

  1. They’re the best at what they do. Yep, talent and performance trumps all. Well, mostly! If the person got fired for some kind of behavior that they can’t or won’t change, well, it will end badly again. But many times, having years away and proving themselves all over again in another organization makes these folks ultra-valuable again to your organization.
  2. New leadership. Let’s face facts – a large percentage of your terminations happen because of personalities not matching. In almost every leadership change, organizations see high turnover. This doesn’t truly mean those leaving are bad employees; it’s just a phenomenon that happens when new leadership and ideas meet old leadership behaviors and ideas — and they don’t match.
  3. Former employee and you (your organization and leadership) have had significant growth. I’ve seen some young, less experienced people get fired, who were completely different people  5 -10 years later. All of that blind fight and energy that had when they were younger, and which distracted from their talent, is gone. What you have left is this focused, high performing employee. By the same token, our leader who was less experienced and didn’t know how to handle high potential employees, now does. Growth happens.

Missing out on great talent

Unfortunately, 99 percent of organizations refuse to bring back an employee who was fired, ever!

It’s too bad, really. You’re probably missing out on some great talent, especially if you’re in a smaller geographic area with limited talent pools to begin with.

Sometimes it’s up to our organizations to become a little more open minded to the fact that change happens, and, that not every person who gets fired is a bad employee.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


18 Comments on “3 Good Reasons You Should Re-Hire Someone You Fired

  1. I really want to know…what if firing an employee in an organization where employees have just a year to deliver on their goals, and the employee misbehaves midway the1-year term..

    1. Agree, HR is the most useless function of an organization. One of the ways they justify their very existence is to find ways and/or reasons to get rid of an employee. If you are having a problem on the job the last people you should go to are in the HR Department because they will parrot back every single word to your manger. In other words, do not say anything to HR that you wouldn’t say directly to your boss. Bottom line, as an employee, HR is not your friend. Not only that, in many cases they tend to be very inept at doing their job. When trying to get hired for that dream job, try to go around HR and deal directly with the hiring manger.

      1. Well said. I concur. I’ve always failed to bamboozle these types and have been blocked by these HR gatekeepers. True story. Years ago, I went to church with a man who was an M.E. He worked for a large consulting engineering firm in my city. They assembled a search committee to hire an E.E. One of the members was the HR lady. They found a suitable candidate. They had to have a quorum and unanimous vote to hire the candidate. The HR lady voted nay

  2. Great article, but it should be noted that getting fired is only one exit. What about staff who’s roles are ‘downsized’ or work for poorly skilled managers and leave? Talk about talent that just gets let loose….

  3. Funny and nice Article.

    Why not placing an end to the pathetic charade of hiring and firing through some “Upgrades” to labor legislation?

    Employment is the US reminds me of the Middle Ages Hierarchical System, a less than Democratic system. The government (Pope/Church) in charge of a few Corporations (Monarchs – CEOs/Owners), followed by HR (The Nobles, the advisers), in charge of Higher Management (Knights and Vassals) captaining Middle and Lower Management/Supervisors (Merchants, Farmers, and Craftsmen), to arrive to employees (Peasants) and ending with temp workers (Serfs).

    I find it amusing how some people will “fight for their rights” to wait out of a store for days and be able to purchase a new product, while most likely would “stand their ground” to defend civil rights.(employment among others).

    1. while most likely would NOT “stand their ground” to defend civil rights.(employment among others).

      Essential word i guess….. 🙂

  4. It’s nice to read an article where someone acknowledges real living breathing people are a reality and that they make mistakes and can reconcile enough to be considered good employees again.

  5. I was fired this month for getting into an argument with a down right lazy-slacker. Always late and will never listen when I loook out for support. The company said that I don’t fit their culture for trying to improve or tweek things to customer’s needs. Well I was never looked upon for the work I have done at the get go anyways.

  6. I need to be rehired so i will know if the problem was really all me or the possibly sociopathic managers that are finally removed. I realize i wasnt performing my best, its kind of hard to keep giving 102 % when you start getting bullied and pushed around.

  7. I was fired in 2003 (I was 23), and then was successfully re-hired by the same company in 2005, although by a different manager on the other side of the building, at a different station. But they definitely had my records. I suppose it just shows that sometimes someone else at the same company will see more value in you, and if they want you, HR can’t really stop them from hiring you back. It can also be just a shitty manager who fires you. I say always stand up, walk out and go check with the person above your manger if you’re fired. What do you have to lose? I did it. I was still fired but I did it, lol.

  8. I was fired by a company in 2007, and I’m still not able to go back. I can not even fill an application out online. Every time I call hr they say I’m up for no rehire because of a code, but when I ask what is the code they tell me they don’t know but it’s a code in their policy. I even called their headquarters still no answer ten years later. So now when I call hr ask me do I remember the managers who were there the time I was hired in it looks as if they should know who the managers was at the time..

  9. I was fired from my first real job many years ago as a younger man due to performance issues. I was called in for a 90 day review, was blindsided, and terminated. Three years later, just for giggles, I replied to this same company for a different position, and was contacted for an interview. They remembered me too, which was odd. I tend to hold grudges, so I declined. A few years later, I was a little older, and was terminated from a job I enjoyed, but it was in a toxic culture with a sociopathic boss from hell, and some psychotic coworkers to boot. It was not for performance, but inability to get along with toxic colleagues and managers. Seven years later, with the help of a friend who was then in management, this employer hired me back. My old boss had been terminated years before, but some of the same managers, and the same owners, still were present. The place was still as toxic as ever. My new boss turned out to be a creep. Three years later, I was again called in and unceremoniously terminated, again not for performance, but this time they had to allegedly make cuts (yeah right). An apple does not fall from the tree, nor does a leopard change its spots. Lesson learned. Never, ever, trust corporate America and employers today!

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