Avoid the 2-finger test

Stop me if you have ever been in this situation. You are running an efficient operation, which is to say that you aren’t overstaffed, then your staffing drops suddenly – maybe someone has left and poached two other people, or maybe you lost one person – in your department of 2. I once had an entire department leave within 24 hours (it was a department of 2, but there was literally no one left to run this piece of the business). if you are like most people, including me, your first instinct is to bring in anyone, so long as they can do the job. “I need bodies!” is the common battle cry that makes its way to the recruiter.

I call this the two-finger test, meaning you place two fingers on the candidate’s neck. If you feel a pulse, you got a winner! The two-finger test is literally what separates the haves from the have-nots, at least when it comes to strategic thinking. If you are in a situation where you are fixing your personnel issues by throwing bodies at something, you may resolve the immediate issue, but in all likelihood, you have only made the problem worse. The reason is, people can smell desperation, and they will take advantage of it for their benefit.

HR talking to Team Leader: “Why did you pay this guy 50% more than the normal starting rate for this position?”

Annoyed Team Leader: “Because I needed someone!”

What can possibly go wrong?

For one thing, how about the one fundamental truth about work: people talk.

Tenured employee to a newbie: “That’s a nice truck you just rolled up in! How much are they paying you?”


Tenured (and now pissed) employee: “Really?”

What happens next? Some possible options include the Tenured and Pissed employee asking for more money, and/or quitting, and/or slowing down production – at least until they find another job, etc, etc…

And then they talk to the rest of the crew and the cycle perpetuates. All while ostracizing your newbie.

So when you find yourself in this boat, and the best people managers and leaders in every business do: suck it up. Don’t let your standards slip because you are in a bind. This may mean you have to have some direct and uncomfortable conversations with your boss or other stakeholders about things like:

  • Temp labor
  • Deadlines (and wiggle room on some)
  • Overtime

You may need to walk away from a project or initiative (or two), or at least place them on hold.

These are all tough conversations to have with your boss or other people who can have an impact on your career, but it is better to be honest up front than 3 months in when you are over budget, your work product stinks and the only thing you can say is “I got in a bind and made some bad hires.”

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