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Success is dependent on the quality of work produced by your executives and their teams. Occasionally, you have to make an employment shift that requires you to replace a member of your leadership group. This may be because you are restructuring a department or launching a new product and the person in charge isn’t a good match. In some cases, the unfortunate truth is that an executive hire simply doesn’t work out and you need to keep a crucial function operating while you make a transition.

Keep a strategy in place so when the time comes, you will be ready and won’t be forced to come up with a solution under pressure. There are various approaches you can take depending on the specific circumstances surrounding your situation.

Terminate First

Terminating an executive first and then launching your replacement search means you will have a short-term vacancy, but can find a way to cover the employee’s essential responsibilities in the interim. This obviously brings the situation out into the open and eliminates the need for a covert search process.

Turn to your executive search firm to help bridge the gap.

Be Up Front – But Be Careful

If the executive you need to replace has an extremely high integrity level, you may be able to simply tell them that things are not working out and mutually agree on a set date for their departure. Do this with the understanding that:

  • They will have time and your support as they find a position better suited to them.
  • You will have time to recruit a replacement.

Be very careful not to poison the work environment or sabotage your company in any way. If either of these things happen, be prepared to terminate the individual immediately. Under the right circumstances, in the right culture and with the right individual, this approach can work. Listen to your gut.

The Benefits of Discreet Hiring

Finding new executives discreetly is advantageous because you can:

  • Maintain productivity. If an executive finds out about your plans to replace them, they may quit immediately or stay on and become unproductive. The latter situation can actually be a worst-case scenario.
  • Keep things positive. Discreet hiring diminishes feelings of mistrust that can occur if other employees view your actions with suspicion or begin to fill the environment with negative energy.
  • Announce the change at your own pace. You can implement the transition process and plan how to thoughtfully announce it at the right time to various audiences.

How to Discreetly Hire

Maintain privacy and professionalism in your hiring process by:

  • Promoting from within. The advantage to hiring internally is that your own people are already familiar with your company and its culture. You save the cost of external advertising and can more easily keep your plans under lock and key. The related caveat is that involved employees must be trustworthy and remain quiet until plans are finalized and announced.
  • Retaining an executive recruitment firm. Your search consultant should offer the right menu of services for you to source and hire with the utmost confidentiality.
  • Schedule interviews carefully. Select times and locations that will not raise red flags. Consider interviewing during off hours such as evenings and weekends. Have your recruitment firm set up mutually convenient off-site meetings.
  • Keep your lips sealed. You may be excited about pending developments, but keep the news close to your vest. Inform only the necessary individuals, such as HR practitioners, until it’s time to announce the change.

Contact BrainWorks as you navigate the challenging waters of filling key executive positions. Our senior leaders offer deep expertise, contacts and proven success in managing executive searches. We can help you achieve the maximum return on your recruitment investment.


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