As a recruiter, nothing is worse than finding the perfect candidate for the job only to have them turn around and quit. All of that time pouring over resumes, talking with candidates on the phone, scheduling interviews with the hiring managers, gone because the onboarding was not handled with the same care and finesse. Transitioning to a new job is a big decision; it’s a life changing event. I have experiences from both sides of the table, as a recruiter and as a new employee. In hindsight, some of my experiences are comical and read more like a Judd Apatow script. The others are just careless mistakes that could've been avoided.
Here are four short stories on what new hires should never have to experience.
My first day, her last day.
I made the decision to start with a new company. It was a bump in my career and I was eager to spread my wings. I was recruited by the HR Director and we hit it off immediately. She was smart, she was caring, she was committed and she had been with the company for a long time. I couldn’t wait for her to be my new boss! When I showed up for my first day she pulled me in her office and told me she was leaving. I panicked but remained professional, focusing my questions on transitions, who I would report to and things of that nature. Then she explained more clearly that it was her last day. I spent the day filing as people shuffled past “the new girl.” I was devastated. Employees stopped by her office all day saying their good-byes. Almost everyone was invited to a farewell lunch, except me. I used my lunch to call everyone I knew and seek advice. As she was leaving for her farewell happy hour she said, “I think you’ll be ok, you’re stronger than I am. But whatever you hear, take it with a grain of salt." It wasn’t as uplifting of a pep talk as I needed.
Those are fake.
I sat down at my new desk and had my first visitor. A male member of the Finance team stopped by to introduce himself and get to know me. I’m an outgoing person so I was really excited to get to know him. Then it became awkward. He started to identify all of the female executives at the company, who I had yet to meet, and proceeded to tell me who had received breast augmentations. I sat there in complete shock as he got up and walked out of my office.
I had recruited “Carl” away from a pretty nice job. He was going to start in mid-management leading a project team. We had interviewed internal candidates as well. One of the internal candidates had been with the company for years and had friends in management. It rocked the boat when we determined “Carl” was the better fit. After a day and a half of hearing things like “I thought they said you had experience doing this” and “Wow, ‘James,’ you aren’t good enough to do the job, but you have to train Carl,” and “You’re a smart guy, figure it out,” we never saw "Carl" again.
New employee orientations are a way to get new hires in one place so they can fill out their forms and get them back in due fashion. The orientation process has to be a well-oiled machine. Whoever's leading it has to be a cheerleader for the company. I was in the orientation rotation at a company. It was a large company and sometimes we had “no shows”. It was common to have a few less people than anticipated. However, we realized after “Maggie” led an orientation, people dropped like flies. Her boss observed a few sessions and “Maggie” did a fine job. It didn’t add up. We finally asked some of the new employees what they thought about the orientation. We said we were looking for ways to make it better. They proceeded to tell us how “Maggie” would ask what department people would be working in and then tell them all of the gossip, all of the bad things about that department. They also reported back that “Maggie” wouldn't follow the orientation agenda and even stopped giving people the orientation handouts. When confronted, “Maggie” said she used the same boring routine every other week and thought her orientations gave a better picture of the company.
These are just some of the things that I encountered as a new employee and Recruiter. And really, no new hire should have to experience these types of situations. That's why employees must be sensible with their actions. Avoid using crude humor or spreading gossip. Don’t share too much too fast or make new hires feel overwhelmed. Most of all, make sure your new hire training is not being neglected. After all, the point of onboarding is to make new hires feel welcomed and engaged, not intimidated or tuned out.
Have you run into similar instances like these at work? And if so, how are you keeping the bad vibes from influencing not just new hires, but the entire workplace?