I wanted her to get the message that this was a clean slate and past transgressions didnt matter. Plus I knew that she didnt see anything in the past as her fault, so that conversation wouldnt have ended well.
Looking back, this was the equivalent of sticking my head in the sand. I should have handled it differently, working with HR and her last manager (not letting my buddy Sam completely off the hook) to convey this WAS her last chance and treated it like probation.
It should have been stated that way in the open and not behind closed doors. Because everyone in management knew she had nowhere else left to go. Kind of like on Lost when Ben was asked why he would go to the side of the evil smoke monster and he answered, Because no one else will have me.
Fast forward a couple weeks and my phone rings. It was an irate customer who cannot believe someone from our team made one of his employees cry. Can you guess who caused those tears?
I called Sandra into my office and asked her about it. She rolled her eyes and sighed.
That person was just stupid. She didnt have a clue about how to properly set up an environment and was wasting my time.
I responded, I thought you said the deployment went great?
It did, Sandra replied, Once I got little miss know it all out of the way. She was way too sensitive about it. Its not personal, just business.
No surprise, but in Sandras mind, this wasnt a big deal. The software was deployed and working as promised. It wasnt her fault the client didnt have a competent resource assigned.
After talking it over with HR, we did agree to put Sandra on probation. When we sat down with her to talk about the terms of probation, she didnt say a word but her face betrayed her anger. I could have guessed what would happen next.
Sure enough, the very next day, one of Sandras team members came into my office and shut the door. Sandra had evidently been belligerent with a junior member of our team, berating him about asking stupid questions.
Turns out the stupid one here was me. By taking Sandra on to the team, I had ruined our team chemistry, which had been superb.
We let Sandra go the next day and sure enough, she sued. Perhaps she had a legal agenda from the start.
In retrospect I dont believe there is anything we could have done to change her actions. However, at the first signs of trouble, the company could have handled the issue better.
Its too easy to sweep problems under the rug, but eventually someone is left holding the hot potato and will certainly get burned.