He lied in his interview. He’s fired.

He lied in his interview. He’s fired.

“Do we fire him because he lied about having a driver’s license?”. This was the question a manager under my leadership asked me recently.

Some three months ago a recruit was put through our very intensive interview process. You can read about the process here. All seemed to go well and the employee managed to tick all the boxes. He was appointed in December and immediately showed promise.

His sales looked good and within a month he was starting to make a real difference to our business.

The department of labour walks in one morning and does an audit of our labour environment and as part of their routine investigation, they require everyone’s driver’s license (who knows why). The employee is requested to send a copy of his driver’s license and after a couple of days of no response, is asked again.

After some more requests, our manager realises the driver’s license is not forthcoming even though the employee noted on his CV that he had a code 10 driver’s license. After pressing him for an answer he walks in one morning and requests a meeting with our manager.

He sits down and explains that he does not have a license and that he expected to get one soon (he even had a date booked for the exam). He told us the reason he put it on his CV was that he had a date booked for the driver’s license exam at around the time we appointed him and he thought that he would pass the exam and there would be no problem.

But he did not pass that exam and now found himself in a position where his integrity was at stake.

What would you do in a situation like this? Do you have a stern discussion with him and give him the grace to get the license? Do you think about the sad story that he is the only breadwinner in the family and that he looks after his grandmother? Do you consider he was raised in a difficult environment and needs a break? Do you let it slide as something small and hope that it would not happen again? What do you do?

At Ouch! we believe there is a simple answer to these questions. From my discussion (you can find it here) on the four non-negotiables during the interview process, we know that integrity is a non-negotiable character trait and one that we have no way of changing or influencing (unless we can force a traumatic life event). It’s a combination of nature and nurture and a business, unfortunately, does not have the time to nurture adults on basic character requirements.

Let me tell you why…

Business owners have a business to run and money to make, and they need to use that money to make a difference to people who don’t have the means to help themselves (as well as make a difference to the employees in their organisations). Running a business is a battle even with the right people, never mind running it with people who still need to be taught what integrity means. A business, we believe, is not a hospital, it’s an organisation that fights the market for a share of profits that are in short supply.

It’s our duty to make the money because it’s our duty to provide a service to our customers (something we promised), an income to our suppliers, salaries to our employees and a return on investment to the poor sod who decided to start this enterprise and signed away his house, car, boat, and kids as surety to further this cause.

We want to help, but we know we’re far better off changing lives with the profits of our business endeavors rather than to use our operating cash to fix people. The rationale behind this is that we are not experts at fixing people, we’re experts at running businesses or fixing things or developing products and that’s what we should be focusing on, and do well. We are maximizing our abilities by focusing on what we do best. We believe it is the noblest thing to do and one we should all aspire to as business owners. Running a hospital for broken employees is not our job.

As for the employee. How will he ever learn that this is unacceptable behavior if everyone cuts him slack every time his lack of integrity shows up? Our responsibility as leaders is to let justice take its course and do the job it was intended to. To teach people that there are boundaries in life and there are consequences to all our actions and we have to take responsibility for them.

So when you find yourself in a situation where you need to make a call on a broken employee, remember this one thought:  You’re not a doctor and not a psychologist. Your job is not to teach people character (only life events do) and your business is not a hospital.

Hire slow, fire fast!


Ouch! Consult is a family business consultancy that helps entrepreneurial families move from lifestyle businesses to wealth building organizations that are able to leave legacies for generations to come. It’s headed up by Kevin Howell who himself has been involved in a family business for over 25 years.

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