Honest Feedback, Where Do You Draw The Line?

Posted On: October 22nd, 2015 By Alen Levis No Comments »

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Honesty is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always well received.

Honest feedback, or what I like to call ‘constructive criticism’ is often needed, even welcomed in the work place. It’s how we improve in all matters, be it social skills or work skills.

Every now and then however, an employee takes an exception to the feedback we give them, and sometimes with unpleasant consequences.
Recently, I was faced with such a case. Anyone involved in HR will encounter either bitter or resentful ex-employees at some stage, and hopefully by sharing this story, I can help prepare others in the HR family for similar situations!

When temp workers go bad. Forgive me for the corny intro, but this is how it happened!

It all began when I placed a worker into a role for a regular client of ours. Unfortunately, the honest feedback from the employer was that she stood around and talked a lot on the job. Now as you can imagine, no employer worth his salt expects to pay for employees to stand around and have a good ole’ chat, so her employment was terminated faster than you can say ‘less talking, more working!’
This particular young lady was new to the temping game, and feeling sympathetic, I thought I would cut her a break. I thought the best way I could help her was to provide informative and honest feedback about how she could improve for next time – normally with a temp that struck out so quickly, there would be no next time! At the time I thought it was well received and appreciated by her.
A few weeks later I find out she wasn’t quite as appreciative as I had thought. I discovered from my client that the former temp had taken matters into her own hands and made direct contact with not our client themselves, but their client! A 3rd party warehouse supplier – with a phone call straight to the top to upper management.
When I listened to the message she left, I was both embarrassed and shocked…


“Hey bro [to the senior manager] just wanted to apply for a job with yous…. I worked there one day and really liked it and wondered if yous had a job for me? I temped through [my recruiting agency] and can I have a job? By the way, I have a criminal record, do you employ people with a criminal record?”


Needless to say, the senior manager was not impressed but I get the feeling that was the whole point. The jilted temp had gone on a smear campaign to teach us a lesson; a lesson not to mess with her. And we paid heed – we haven’t had anything more to do with her since!

We all make mistakes.

As a recruiter I would like to say we get it right all the time, but when you’re dealing with hundreds of people and placing them in jobs or rejecting their applications, you’re bound to make a few errors. The important thing is that these errors become lessons and not repeats.

Which makes me think, what should I have done differently?

Should the feedback have been more guarded? Perhaps not so honest and upfront? The simple answer is no. Curbing your feedback for fear of retribution is not feedback at all. It’s hiding behind the fence in case the dog bites. It’s called constructive for a reason.
No, it goes back to the root – trusting your team’s feedback no matter what. If I looked back further into the recruiting process for this job, I could pick out some red flags that I may have failed to spot.
One of my recruiters came back from the interview and said they had taken an instant dislike to her. I should have known that something wasn’t right then and there, and trusted the recruiter’s good judgement.
Sometimes some people really do have a chip on their shoulder the size of Gibraltar. No amount of helpfulness or niceness on your part is going to appease them – they feel they are owed the world.

So, what happened with our errant temp? Naturally we were in repair mode, making phone call after phone call with the client to attempt to undo the damage the resentful ex-employee had done. I am thankful to say we were able to repair the relationship by showing that we cared about them and their business (not to mention their privacy!)
There’s a saying in recruitment ‘you are only as good as you last placement’ and believe you me it was echoing through my head all day long as we went into damage control mode.

What did I learn from this incident?

Primarily that, even after all these years of training, experience and practice, recruitment demands constant refinement and adjusting. The best advice I have for anyone hiring staff is to stick to your principles, don’t rush in and trust your gut but trust others’ gut too. If it looks like a duck, quack likes a duck then leave the duck alone and go and find a golden goose!






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