Hiring & Firing Teams

Previous: Creating Projects

Unless you’re taking over an existing project, you’ll likely have to get a budget and assemble a team.

  • Contract employees are perfect if you simply need people without any loyalty or long-term commitment.
  • If you want them through a series of projects, hire them as an employee to ensure they’ll stay with you.
  • Contract-to-hire is only worth your effort if you only intend to keep some of the workers after each project.


Define every important functions you will need for your team.

  1. Specify the necessary tasks as precisely as possible:
    • Hours required per week
    • Severity of the task
    • Necessary skills for the task
  2. For each task, indicate the kinds of expertise or personality required for the role.
  3. In order from most critical to least, assign the tasks to specific roles.
  4. If a task is somewhat out-of-place for a role, assign it as a secondary task to at least 2 roles.
  5. If any roles have too many tasks or the tasks are too burdensome, add more roles.

7-S Framework:

  • The model breaks apart and independently analyzes aspects of an organization:
    • Strategy – purposes and how the organization gets to them.
    • Structure – agreed-upon organizational order.
    • Systems – informal habits the group has adopted.
    • Shared Values – shared group beliefs.
    • Style – the culture behind everyone acting.
    • Staff – the specific members themselves and their roles.
    • Skills – qualified specializations of the members.

Create an organizational chart.

  • Define the necessary, specific details for each role:
    1. The direct responsibilities.
    2. Natural personality strengths those responsibilities would require.
    3. The typical weaknesses those strengths would likely have.
  • Indicate the measurements for succeeding or failing at that role.

In general, every role will specialize into 4 possible functions:

  1. Acquisition – growing and getting more (sales, marketing, business development, etc.)
  2. Delivery – getting things to where they need to be (logistics, customer support, etc.)
  3. Development – improving the outputs (product development, engineering, maintenance, programming, etc.)
  4. Operations – broadly supporting the organization (finance, HR, IT, recruiting, etc.)

Create a budget for each role:

  1. The expected wage for each role.
  2. Secondary costs attached to the role (taxes, filing fees, required certifications, etc.).
  3. Advertising and recruiting costs (job board, recruiter commission, etc.).
  4. Initial costs attached to training and getting acquainted with the role.
    • There’s usually a break-even point a few weeks/months in where that worker actually turns a profit.
  5. Turnover costs for new hires for the role.
    • Each new hire can cost about 3-12 months of an employee’s yearly pay.
    • These costs come from lost management time interviewing, training, HR, and time with an unfilled role.

Calculate the team’s turnover costs:

  1. Find all the combined costs to hire each role, then work out an average number.
  2. Estimate a turnover percentage based on industry data.
  3. Average Role Hiring Costs x (Turnover Percentage x Number of Workers) = Team Turnover Costs

Never let each team surpass 4-8 people.

  • The number of interactions becomes exponentially more as the team gets larger.
    • N x ( N – 1 ) / 2, with N being the number of people.
    • e.g., with 3 people: 3 x ( 3 – 1 ) / 2, or 3
    • e.g., with 5 people: 5 x ( 5 – 1 ) / 2, or 10
    • e.g., with 15 people: 15 x ( 15 – 1 ) / 2, or 105
  • Going past a team consisting of a few people guarantees multiple problems at once:
    • Communicating to everyone at once becomes complex and time-consuming.
    • People won’t feel like their contribution means much, so some members won’t do much.
    • There will be unavoidable personality conflicts, especially when trying to achieve group consensus.
    • The corporate culture of large groups tends to generate enough peer pressure that everyone will be more likely to resist change.
  • If you expect your team needs more than 8 people, break apart the tasks into more explicitly-defined specializations.
    • You can make as many teams as you want, as long as your team leads communicate with each other.
    • However, the upper threshold of lead-to-lead interaction becomes its own limits: only have meetings with up to 4-8 team leads.

Specific Roles

Each role should have overlapping tasks with other people.

  • Even if it’s only a secondary task, everyone should have the freedom to not be the only person responsible for the results.
  • To avoid technical idiocy, try giving associated tasks that demonstrate the consequences or inputs of their dominant role (e.g., sales staff also makes a few followup calls).

Belbin Team Roles:

  • Helps define roles into 9 domains based on comparative personality assessments:
    • Thought-Oriented
      • Monitor Evaluator – fact-based decision-maker
      • Specialist – niche understanding of technical facts, often serves as an advisor
      • Plant – creative idea-maker, often works alone
    • Action-Oriented
      • Shaper – extrovert focused on influencing others to action
      • Implementer – practical-minded, accomplishes task lists
      • Completer/Finisher – introverts who test and finalize things
    • People-Oriented
      • Coordinator – high-agreeableness focused on influencing others to agreeing to objectives
      • Team Worker – effective listener and communicator who seeks group harmony
      • Resource Investigator – extrovert who finds new resources and social connections

Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile:

  • First, the system asks questions that explore how an individual prefers to work:
    • Relating to others
    • Gathering and using information
    • Making decisions
    • Organizing themselves and others
  • Then, they group people based on their preferences:
  • Those preferences are connected through a sequence of approximate social interaction:
    1. Reporter-Advisor enjoys giving and gathering information (e.g., researcher).
    2. Creator-Innovator enjoys finding new ideas and different approaches to tasks (e.g., artist).
    3. Explorer-Promoter enjoys exploring possibilities and finding new opportunities (e.g., philosopher).
    4. Assessor-Developer enjoys analyzing new opportunities and making them happen (e.g., event planner).
    5. Thruster-Organizer enjoys guiding people toward making results (e.g., manager).
    6. Concluder-Producer enjoys systematically making outputs (e.g., factory worker).
    7. Controller-Inspector enjoys testing outputs (e.g., quality assurance).
    8. Upholder-Maintainer enjoys keeping things going (e.g., maintenance).
  • Everyone performs the Linker role, but it’s particularly important for the leader to stay in that role.

Clarify each role with a full job description:

  • Even if you’re working informally with others you know personally beforehand, a job description clarifies expectations.
    • It’s a lightly enforceable contract that keeps the manager safe from misunderstood expectations and the subordinate safe from coercion or abuse.
    • Frame job descriptions around necessary performance more than required skills.
  • Job title and duration – the actual name of the role.
    • Look at other roles similar to what you need for inspiration, which may mean titling the role last.
    • While title inflation isn’t uncommon, the roles should have a relationship to other roles.
    • It varies by industry, but there are often certain patterns of hierarchical authority (e.g., Coordinator < Supervisor < Director).
    • Contract workers are usually less committed than official employees, but can often be cheaper.
  • Summary statement – 1-2 sentences that specify duties and who that person reports to.
    • It should be jargon-free and clearly summarize what the job involves.
    • If applicable, it should indicate the geographical region as well.
  • Benefits and pay – the aspects of what you’re providing in exchange for their work.
    • You save a ton of time by publicly specifying how much you’re offering.
    • Give pay based on what the industry expects and they’ll need, not what you feel they deserve or the rest of the budget.
    • If the pay is non-negotiable, give a precise number.
    • Make the pay a fixed range instead of a fixed amount to attract more talent.
    • If they’re particularly talented, they will likely negotiate more than you expected.
    • Pay more when the labor market becomes scarce.
  • Responsibilities – specific functions and details about the role, which is usually the longest part.
    • Describes day-to-day tasks and supervisory elements of the work.
    • Clarifies the work environment and any specific expectations for that workplace.
    • Specify anything in particular that will be measured, which should be as close as possible to effectiveness in the role.
    • Typically also indicates who they’re communicating with:
      • Customers
      • Public or internal workers
      • Suppliers
      • Supervisors
      • Departments
  • Requirements – pre-existing conditions the applicant should have.
    • They should have core
    • A listing of specific machines, software, tools, and technical understanding.
    • Clarify any preferred or required education or technical background.
    • Indicate any cultural/attitude personality requirements as well.
  • If you want to get the point across, do not add other sections:
    • Team, Training and Support – should be covered under Benefits
    • Highlights – should be covered under Benefits
    • Our Culture – should be covered under Summary Statement or Benefits
    • Schedule – should be covered under Responsibilities
    • Our Values – should be covered under Requirements


There are several places to find new hires:

  1. Via network, among the people you know.
    • Gives the least opportunities, but can create a more well-adjusted team because people like to associate with others who are like them.
  2. Over the internet with a job board.
    • Will require you to manually sift through dozens or hundreds of roles, though an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can help deduce candidates based on keywords.
    • Gives tremendous breadth, but very little depth.
  3. Delegated to a placement agency.
    • They’ll receive a commission if you hire them, but successful placement agencies will do a preliminary interview to see if you’re a good fit.
    • It adds another party to the arrangement, which can make the hiring process more complicated (e.g., constraints from the right to represent).

Focus on growth, impact, and care when marketing the job:

  1. Growth is essential for everyone’s career self-interest, especially for young workers.
  2. Impact is critical to give meaning to the work, especially for younger workers.
  3. Care is important for everyone’s personal self-interest, especially with older workers.

Don’t pay a salary premium to compensate for a miserable workplace.

  • Instead, devote at least some money to equipping them to have an easier time in the workplace (e.g., paying to keep equipment well-maintained).


Every time you need to interview, improve your process.

  • Focus on high-quality candidates over a larger quantity of them.
    • Draw from your personal network to find more loyal candidates.
  • Use personality tests to clearly demarcate what kind of person they are before you hire them.
  • Unless it’s highly specialized, focus more on motivation than skill.


Consider your own personality when hiring.

  • If you’re extroverted, you’ll draw out passive workers’ performance better.
  • If you’re introverted, you’ll give more stability to extroverted employees.
  • If you find workers who are more creative or intelligent than you, expect them to frequently prove you wrong.
  • If you know someone will work harder than you, make sure they’ll be well-paid (and possibly more well-paid than you).

While every potential candidate could do the job, aim for a culture fit.

  • A diverse range of demographics (age, gender, family composition, political views) is guaranteed to generate more creative solutions, but at the risk of more conflicts.
  • Diverse workplaces are not conducive to mindless tasks (e.g., factory work).
  • Pay close attention to how a candidate interacts with current members or leadership, since any social friction will magnify itself later.
    • At the same time, a neurodivergent (e.g., ASD, Cluster B) in many industries is literally the most diverse hire you can acquire.

Team involvement and great work aren’t necessarily related.

  • While every person’s contributions might need interaction for handing off their completed work, not every task needs a team player.
  • However, if it’s a new team, it’ll take a bit more work to assign roles for everyone, since conventions haven’t been established yet.

Every new person will dramatically change the group.

  • Each member, even in an unimportant role, will dramatically shift everyone else’s attitudes and thoughts.
  • Group harmony with each other comes through everyone’s shared identity, but group harmony outside the organization comes through how many demographics and contrasting value systems are represented inside that group.

If you give intelligent, lazy people the role, they’ll often find an easier way to do it.


Once you’ve hired them, only drop a few tasks on them at first.

  • Shave down the required training to the bare minimum necessary for them to start working.
  • Too many tasks will ensure they become overwhelmed or develop bad habits (e.g., inefficient, sloppy).
  • If they must have extra training to handle specific tasks, give them the skills for the low-effort tasks, then train specifically for more difficult tasks.

If possible, avoid on-the-job training.

  • The intuition is that someone is getting paid while they’re also learning.
  • However, in practice someone is simply getting paid to learn, but with a very distracted teacher.
  • Save examples of what finished work typically looks like (both good and bad) or record videos of typical tasks (both good and bad), then use that as a teaching aide for the trainer.

If you only want workers to make long-term commitments, pay them for the training and then pay a bonus for them to quit.

  • It may cost in the short-term, but will dramatically increases retention.

Note Any Risks

Stay vigilant for any risks to the workplace culture:

  • Bullying makes people fearful or resentful.
  • Conceit sows disrespect among everyone.
  • Distrust is contagious.
  • Antisocial tendencies make the rest of the group informally separate from that person.
  • Laziness means nobody trusts that person, and will generally instill apathy with everyone else over time.
  • Excessively communicating about private matters will make everyone else uncomfortable over time.
  • Excessive low-channel communication (e.g., email, texting) inspire antisocial tendencies within others.

People tend to create workplace issues for several reasons:

  • They’re re-creating personal family roles and subconsciously drawing out others’ unhealthy behaviors.
  • They feel inadequate in their private life, so they seek revenge through their work.
  • They believe they’ll find meaning or solutions to their problems by controlling things beyond themselves.

Don’t Micromanage

Your first impulse as a manager who sees problems will be to micromanage.

  • While micromanagement can fix some things in the short-term, it creates an uncomfortable work environment.
  • You may need to micromanage a low-skill team (e.g., fast food, construction), but legitimate professionals should never be disrespected over their free decisions.

The personality disposition of a manager means you may easily err in overstepping your boundaries:

  • Giving mandatory time for breaks, even when the work doesn’t need people to work together or synchronize schedules.
  • Asking for constant status updates, even when the work is hard to measure (e.g., tech management).
  • Forcing specific choice of words or prohibiting discussion about perfectly legal subjects.
  • Prohibiting people from going where they’re freely allowed to go (which is often legally defined as false imprisonment).

The solution to micromanagement is to take clear actions a few steps away from the problem:

  • If someone is being rude, make that part of the company policy.
  • When people cause undue burden on others, promote the harder workers.
  • If a worker is power-mongering, give all new responsibilities to other workers.


In general, don’t jump to conclusions.

  • If someone is under-performing they might have an attitude problem, but it may also be a cultural misunderstanding.
  • Sometimes, under-performance might be your failing as a manager, especially if it’s more than one person.

There are specific actions that can be grounds for immediate termination.

  • Malice toward anyone else.
  • Completely unethical behavior (e.g., lying, theft).
  • Inappropriate behavior to other team members or customers.

Other times, the situation can build up to a necessary termination or layoff.

  • The role’s needs and personality of the person don’t match.
  • After repeated admonitions and warnings, they’re not improving.
  • Consistently disrespects and subverts the workplace culture.
  • Technology or industry changes has made their role no longer necessary.
  • They’re now old or disabled enough that the role is too physically demanding for them.

Do not simply fire someone on an impulse.

  • Firing should be the last action of a long process.
  • Some people have bad days or toxic arguments, but one event alone is rarely enough that you should outright terminate their role.
  • If that worker has a family, your termination will impact those people as well.
  • Unless that person is completely unproductive, firing and rehiring for the role is typically more resource-intensive than giving that person more motivation to work.

Barring truly awful human behavior, you should never want for them to quit, but instead for them to change.

  • Before firing them, try to motivate them to do better.
  • Set reasonable and accommodating standards that apply to everyone equally.
    • If they don’t rise to fair standards, it’s harming other group members to accommodate their situation.
  • If you need to, adapt pay incentives to performance-based measurements instead of simply time worked.

The absence of someone in a necessary role can create extra costs and burden:

  • Missed deadlines and interrupted workflow.
  • Damaged reputation of the team and organization.
  • Whatever knowledge or systems that person exclusively controlled will need someone else to do the same.
  • The extra stress can create more absences from other members.
  • Depending how the person left, it can disrupt the group’s harmony and potentially cause others to leave as well.

If someone is in a position of exclusive responsibility and may potentially leave, closely monitor everything they do during the prior weeks and months.

  • Monitor every routine task they perform and every organization they interact with.
  • If they leave and you didn’t find out what they did first, you’ll have much more work finding out exactly how they did everything.

Firing the wrong way will create severe legal risks.

  • Before you even approach an unpleasant or lazy employee for dismissal, acquire plenty of documented evidence ahead of time.
  • Your organization’s company policy should reflect at least some elements of how they’re failing.
    • If you can’t find anything, clearly and specifically make a new policy that indicates the new rules, then hold them accountable for what they do after the new rules.
  • Keep multiple records from different angles that demonstrate their performance or attitude problems.
  • Have multiple recorded times where you’ve discussed the same matter with them.

When approaching them about termination, unapologetically own what you must do.

  • Say “I’m sorry, but I have to let you go”, without any further explanation.
    • They don’t care how much it hurts you.
    • If they want to know, they do deserve to hear why they’re getting fired.
  • If they try to argue, don’t respond to it.
  • Don’t offer to do anything for them (they’ll want you to give them the job back).
    • If you value their work and know someone in your network, give that referral outright.
    • If they were laid off, do whatever you can before approaching them to find work for them elsewhere.
  • Have a witness during the conversation (preferably another manager) to ensure they don’t make false claims over what you said.
    • It may seem patronizing, but is necessary.
    • Alternately, record them and ask for their consent to record at the beginning.
  • Do not do anything condescending (e.g., escorting them to the door to make them look like a criminal).

If you’ve made a hiring mistake, learn from it and move on.

  • Make your relationship with future candidates better than what you had.

If you keep letting go of qualified workers after projects terminate, consider a project-based hiring arrangement for future hires.

Next: Project Status & Cycles