What do you do when an employee is super problematic, but not technically unhireable?

By Steve Moran

Not as often as I wish, but often enough, a reader just, out of the blue, sends me a story and they are almost always amazing. This one came in while I was flying to Philadelphia for LeadingAge. Some details are changed to protect the parties involved.

Is It Worth Hiring These Kinds of People?

The candidate for a job in a senior living community was super problematic, but not unhireable. They might well have hidden their problem — but they didn’t — and for a tiny moment, the hiring manager wondered what to do, but, in reality, it was obvious.

The Challenge

This person was a veteran and had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He started the interview by talking about his TBI, but explained that he has not had any seizures in more than a year and that, with medication, his seizures are under control, with some conditions:

  • He needs adequate rest.

  • He needs to stay on his meds.

  • He cannot work overnight because he takes his medication in the evening, which causes drowsiness.  

He was frankly desperate for work since no one would hire him.

It Didn’t Start Well

After an offer is made, each candidate must be fingerprinted and photographed. After the fingerprinting and photo, he came back to the executive director’s office complaining he was not feeling well. Once in the office, he began to have terrible flashbacks. He was shaking and feeling like he was just struggling to stay alive. The flashbacks were triggered by the photo flash. The experience lasted about 30 minutes and was terrifying for the executive director.

Even after coming out of it, the new hire was unable to drive and the executive director had to drive him home. As I’ve said, it was a scary experience for the ED.

What to Do?

The offer stood and they have reached out to the Veterans Administration to come to the community and provide training to the team on how to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Is It the Right Thing to Do?

The question is this, is sticking with the decision to hire this individual the right thing to do? For this community and this organization, the answer is a solid yes, and here is why:

  • He is an excellent employee with a great attitude.

  • He is grateful beyond belief for the job, which really means grateful for the trust in him. Because of this, he works harder and better than any employee imaginable.

  • It is the right thing to do. This young person put his life on the line for the freedom that each of us enjoys.

The next chapters are yet to be written, but I sort of have this dream that someday the rest of the story will be told, that maybe he will go on to become an executive director or a regional or even an owner. If you have taken a chance on an improbable candidate and had success . . . or for that matter failure, we would love to hear that story.