How Hiring a Consultant Can Alienate Your Team and How to Avoid It

Hiring independent consultants is a great way to meet short-term business talent needs, but it can also alienate your current team members if you don’t approach it properly.

When you hire an independent consultant through a service such as Graphite, you’re often doing so because you want to fill a pressing business need or devote additional resources to an important project. You might also be looking to tap a consultant’s subject matter or industry expertise.

But hiring a consultant can have some unintended consequences if you don’t communicate with your existing team members and consider how the hire might impact them.

For example, your current team might be busy working on other initiatives and day-to-day tasks, so you might be looking to hire an outside resource rather than pile more work on them. You might also be thinking about leveraging a consultant’s expertise to provide advice, insights and strategic recommendations on a given topic.

However, if you don’t communicate this purpose and you don’t give your team a heads up or share sufficient details, your direct employees might interpret the hire very differently.

If they don’t know that you’re trying to help them avoid extra work, they might see the move as a reflection on their productivity. They might see it as a silent criticism of their failure to do more or produce desired results.

If you’re hiring someone for subject matter expertise or to tackle a specific project, some team members might see this as a lack of trust in their own abilities or expertise. Others may see it as a lack of confidence in their capacity to learn and take on new challenges. Some may find it downright insulting and take it as a signal that they won’t be given opportunities for professional development.

In addition, if you keep your team members in the dark about a hire, they can feel blindsided. If a consultant suddenly shows up unannounced or starts working virtually without advanced notice and communication with your team, you’re on a fast track to resentment and misunderstanding.

To avoid this, it’s important to be as open and transparent with your team as possible. Maybe your team members don’t need to know every detail because your consultant will be working on a confidential project. But if you don’t communicate enough with them, they will be left guessing, and they may potentially fill in the blanks with negative assumptions or reactions.

Instead, make sure to clearly communicate the purpose of your hire, the role your consultant will play, and give your team members reassurances if you suspect they may have concerns about what the hire says about them or their performance.

In addition, consider taking steps to integrate your consultant with the rest of your team and give both sides opportunities to connect, work together, and build a rapport. Your current employees might welcome some additional help and an opportunity to leverage your consultant’s expertise, as long as they know it’s designed to help them tackle specific business challenges or grow as professionals.

Make sure your team understands that your consultant will be working as an ally and not a threat. If you suspect team members are worried that an outside hire might reflect negatively on their job security or professional development, make it clear that you’re hiring a consultant to help the team and not as a consequence of your dissatisfaction or a lack of trust.

Just as with hiring direct employees, it’s natural that some people might be a bit suspicious or hesitant about a new addition to the team. Resistance to change and perceived “outsiders” is an inescapable reality in human organizational behavior. But honesty and communication can go a long way to breaking down that resistance, helping bring everyone together, and instilling your team with confidence.

Of course, if you’re bringing in a consultant because you have concerns about your current team’s performance, capabilities, or learning capacity, those issues should be addressed independently. Ideally, you may even want to take corrective action and work in improving your team before you consider hiring an independent resource.

Otherwise, your workers might see your hire as a passive aggressive attempt to circumvent them, and they might be right! Additionally, you could end up spending money on outside resources and creating unnecessary redundancy that could be avoided if you addressed the real problems at hand.

Whatever the case may be for your team, make sure to communicate openly and clearly before you hire and onboard your next consultant. To avoid alienating your workers, honesty and transparency are truly the best policies.

For additional help in hiring and onboarding independent consultants, you can also check out some of our other blog articles:

Of course, if you’re searching for top-tier independent consultants in finance, strategy, marketing, investment banking, IT, analytics, we can help. Visit us at www.graphite.com to post your project and search our pool of over 5,000 pre-vetted and highly qualified consultants, including experts with backgrounds at leading firms such as McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, Accenture and the Fortune 500.

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Greg Andrade

Greg Andrade handles Graphite's marketing and communication programs. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he worked in corporate marketing for 15 years before turning his focus to virtual marketing consulting for startups and global businesses.

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