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Tough Call: Qualified but unpredictable

You worked in a few different businesses before landing a job with an LBM dealer 10 years ago. That job evolved into your career, and now you can’t imagine doing anything else. Though you knew nothing about building materials when you started at the aptly named Career Lumber, the owner recognized and appreciated your attitude and work ethic and rewarded you by making you the manager of the company’s second yard. While this location is new to you, it used to be a head-to-head competitor whose owner decided to sell and retire.

Most of the employees agreed to stay on under new ownership, but you do have a few positions to fill, including one for operations manager. Immediately after posting the job, you received an application from someone with solid LBM experience. Since their experience came during a stint with your company, you know exactly how good this person is. And no question about it, they’re good at what they do. But you also know that they were let go for a very good reason, and you’re not sure you want to work with them again.

Here’s the story: About five years ago, when you were well-established with Career Lumber, you got to be friends with Pat, the operations manager. Pat was well-liked, good at his job, and seemed on a similar path as you—headed toward a leadership role. One day, a long-time builder customer named Joe was talking about helping out with his local precinct of a certain political party. Pat overheard the conversation and made very clear that he didn’t approve.

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Pat was so angry, he sent an email to the owner of your company, and to Joe’s partner in his company. “Joe has no Hire Pat. As a proven operations pro, Pat has the expertise you need. And you’re unlikely to find another candidate with the same skills. business talking about his political views or how he’s helping to further them,” Pat exclaimed. “Political beliefs are very sensitive topics, especially during an election year, and he has no right to discuss anything about what he does, or how his party’s platform is better for our industry!” This email caused major drama in your company, with people wondering what horrible thing Joe said.

Then, a mutual acquaintance reached out and said, ominously: “Big-time consequences are coming your way, unless you and Joe apologize for talking about politics.” You were there, and you know that Joe said nothing disrespectful. There’s nothing to apologize for. After a number of phone calls and emails, you learned that there were no consequences coming after all. Nobody was outraged … except Pat. And he wasn’t backing down. Despite his abilities, Pat was let go for creating this toxic drama.

After applying for the position with your new location, Pat reached out and apologized. “I made a mistake, and I’m sorry,” he said. “If you give me a chance, I’d like to rebuild our friendship and move forward doing good work for you as your operations manager.”

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Pat’s a good person, and you believe he sincerely regrets his actions. But having experienced Pat’s rage, you know what he’s capable of, and you have zero interest in a replay. You don’t hold a grudge … but you’re not sure you can trust him enough to hire him. Is the risk worth the potential benefit? What would you do? Cast your vote below.

Hire Pat. As a proven operations pro, Pat has the expertise you need. And you’re unlikely to find another candidate with the same skills. Give Pat another chance.

Keep looking. Pat created a full-blown crisis out of nothing, and his outrage was so extreme that many don’t trust him. Better to hire someone without the baggage.

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Talk it out. Have a heart-to-heart talk with Pat, share your concerns and why you’re hesitant to work with him again. Decide what to do after having a good conversation.

Short leash. Hire Pat on a trial basis, with the understanding that the smallest sign of unprovoked outrage toward your team or customers will mean immediate termination.

What would you do?

Something else? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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