Goldilocks And The Three HR Adages

what follows is a fictional tale in reflecting upon the Hire Fast, Fire Fast and Hire Slow, Fire Fast debate

Once upon a time, Goldilocks found herself managing a SaaS startup creating innovative means to keep thick, well forested areas untouched (if that were not so, then there would be no three bears story later on). As she scaled the team, she had to decide how she was going to lead and execute the vision. For starters: hiring and firing.

She found may blog articles, YouTube clips (her forest has excellent fiber internet), TED Talks, and books about how to hire and fire people; she found many conflicting methods, too. But the most confusing was the debate of whether to do it fast or slow: does one hire fast, or slow? Fire quickly, or take their time?

So, as all good startup managers do, she walked into the cabin and tried three options that happened to be ready before her.

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

She had encountered this short fable awhile ago and decided to try it out. Turns out it wasn’t that great.

See, when she hired slow, that was alright she told herself. However, she always had too much work because she didn’t have enough bodies — ever. But I am making the right decision by not hiring the wrong person she reminded herself.

Then she tried the side dish: fire fast. That didn’t work out either, as she was surprised when she terminated the one person not pulling his weight, she was dumbfounded she didn’t spend time coaching him. Nor did anyone on her team expect he would be fired —her team realized there was more to be scared of in this forest than simply bears.

The problem that enveloped her soon thereafter was that her team, though resilient and smart, began to question, “am I next?” and she didn’t have a good response except, “no, you’re doing great!”

So she moved onto the next story.

Hire Fast, Fire Slow

This one had different flavors and textures to it. Quite a different dish, if you had a chance to ask her about it.

The hire fast piece worked out well in the beginning, but usually 3–6 weeks after hiring she realized she didn’t ask “that one question that would have revealed X behavior” — she had made another hiring mistake. But not just one or two, but a number of them. This brought team morale down.

But this time she learned. She thought.

She was going to spend time coaching her struggling teammates. She poured time and energy into them. She realized that the team needed to feel a safety net, that if they were going to get fired they would see it coming first. That provided some relief to the team. But as coaching caused her days to run into nights and nights into weekends, she began to be perpetually stressed. Not only that, but her team was beginning to wonder if maybe “this month” there would ever be a few less people coming in tomorrow morning?

Ultimately, that was too bitter of a dish. The aftertaste held on too long. It wasn’t filling, either.

Hire And Fire, Well, Not Quite Fast and Not So Slow

So when she moved on to the third fable, she popped open the menu and found something on the menu that wasn’t quite so succinct, didn’t sound particularly over the top, and not as sexy as the other dishes. But she tried it — she needed something as a famished startup manager!

So she tried to hire with moderate speed. That seemed to work better. She was able to scale a team properly and made fewer hiring mistakes as she could interview the candidates multiple times. Yes, she did have to stay late a few nights, but hiring top candidates drew a sigh of relief and led to to better sleep. Waking up the next morning, she found herself rested.

Goldilocks also fired with modest quickness. She had learned to coach her struggling teammates, but she also realized the need to take care of herself and to give more time to her top performers than her bottom performers.

But by spending some time with her bottom performers, her entire team rallied around them and realized that Goldilocks really cared about all of them. This drew them to trust her more as they realized she was going to balance the needs of the company with the team. No one was going to be unexpectedly fired (unless some ill act occurred, like forgetting to stir and then burning the porridge).


In the end, Goldilocks found that while this third parable wasn’t her perfect utopian ideal, it sure as heck was way better than the other adages that seemed to give a sense of shock and awe that would help propel a company into hyper growth. In the end, she found another adage to be helpful: moderation in all things, especially moderation.

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