Should companies rehire employees who exit on a bad note?

How about giving talented former employees - who left on a bad note in the previous innings - a second chance. What will it entail for the company’s culture


Boomerang employees is a popular practice. However, sometimes, great talent may leave the company on a bad note. The reasons for their decision to move on may be varied. Disputes with the management over certain issues is a prominent cause for disengagement, resulting in an exit.

However, whether to rehire such employees or not can be a tricky decision. Would the disputes come back after rejoining? Would you rehire this employee? HRKatha asks prominent HR minds:

P Dwarakanath, HR leader & former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare

P Dwarakanath, HR leader & former chairman, GSK Consumer Healthcare

An overly rigid or conservative rehiring outlook is a thing of the past. What is necessary is a meticulous and bias-free examination by the HR. Rehiring ‘good leavers’ is a no brainer. After all, these are talent that one wanted to retain but had to let go due to unforeseen reasons or circumstances. Such ‘good leavers’ are already deemed good fits for the organisational culture.

It is the rehiring of employees who have made a controversial exit that requires some reconsidering. If the person’s attitude wasn’t an issue in the prior engagement, then the circumstances under which they left must be probed. Even if such talent quit following a clash with the management, probes may find that the said employee may not be entirely responsible for the same.

Then, it would be a nice idea to reinstate them. However, if probes reveal that the employee wasn’t a team player, and known to be unaccommodating and a bad fit culturally, then it doesn’t matter how suitable they appear to be, it is not worth rehiring them. After all, one cannot be sure that a similar situation may not arise again in the future.

Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group

Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group

It is not a ‘one blanket fits all’ scenario. The issue of rehiring a person who left on a bad note needs to be case specific. The reason why a person needs to rejoin, is in itself a story that needs to be taken into consideration before making a decision. Circumstances for termination of employment will vary from case to case. However, two considerations will remain the same, irrespective of the conditions.

If the person that has left has no integrity issues, then one can consider giving them a second chance. Issues may persist, but their skills may guide them back into the workforce of the company. If they didn’t cause an issue that compromised the company’s business, they can still be given another shot. Issues with the management may be resolved as and when they come up in the future, if the talent is truly a big contributor to the company.

Second, the person must not have displayed a consistent trend of bad behaviour while previously employed with the company. An employee’s bad behaviour obviously creates a negative impression and impacts the company’s culture as a whole. And no organisation needs problematic behaviour to be reflected by others in the company as well.

Chaitali Mukherjee, partner and leader, people and organisation, PwC India

Chaitali Mukherjee, partner and leader, people and organisation, PwC India

While it’s critical that employees maintain their work ethic and work in the best possible way for any organisation they are associated with, the attitude and behaviour of the employees during the last few days / months — particularly when they have mentally and emotionally checked out — matters a lot.

All things being equal, the single most important factor for which organisations should always hire people should be their work ethic and their attitude. However, many employees forget the importance of work ethic and attitude once they have checked out or are in the process of making a career or a job switch.

Most large organisations give significant consideration to whether an employee should be rehired or not. While systemically, data gets captured in the system, more often than not, it is not the system that they go and check with. Rather, they do a background check via conversations with leaders who may have dealt with the concerned individual.

As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. This is absolutely true even for organisations. The test of people and their work ethic is not when they need the organisation, but when the organisation needs them or when they are exiting.

I have seen even extremely senior people get reckless about how they exit. I believe, till the last day of employment with the firm, one is in an employment contract and one’s ability to be and do the best until that day is the true mark of work ethic.

(This article first appeared in the HRKatha monthly magazine)


  1. Talent and crisis. Rehiring in a company is desirable, however certain T & C. Talent and familiarity of know company is far better than a new hiring. Growth of a company is top priority than limited crisis and short period egos and imbalance in such environment.

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