Monday, June 23, 2014

Heaven or Hell: You Never Really Know – Until You Start

You can interview with the best intentions, seeking to demonstrate your suitability for the job for which you’re interviewing. You can ask all the right questions and thoroughly evaluate the position for which you applied. You can have a good interaction and overall feeling of satisfaction with the limited knowledge available to you when you make your decision to accept a job offer.
But it isn’t until you arrive on that fateful day to begin a new job when you’ll in fact come face to face with the actual, life-size, hi-def big picture that is your new work environment, in person. You never really know until you start whether or not you’ve made the right decision. Even so, everyone wears their best face when you start a new job, it’s the honeymoon period so if there are glaring issues during this period, it would behoove you to pay attention. Because sometimes, things are not as they seem.
I recently encountered a person I’ve known for many years who shared an experience they had with/about a new job – which ended almost as quickly as it began.
She was elated to have been hired by an organization with a good reputation and all with whom she met, behaved professionally and friendly. On the first day of work she was introduced to her co-worker, who had been there already two years and was tasked with her training. Suddenly, from that moment things changed. As with any new job, learning new systems and processes can be demanding but is to be expected, everyplace is different in one way or another. This notwithstanding almost immediately, her co-worker and trainer was demeaning, intentionally made all things more difficult and was literally insulting. Here, where I live in the Czech Republic they have a term called mobing, it is pronounced like the word “mobbing” but with a long “o” and translated, it equates with harassment, as in, workplace harassment. It is a serious charge but one that can be hard to prove without witnesses (a note to readers who might experience similar behavior: utilize a discreet, voice activated recording device and voila, you have the next best thing to a witness and proof). The new employee quickly recognized a problem and attempted to address her co-worker to learn what issues might be causing the communication and behavioral issues; but this was answered with worse treatment and more insults. (I could list more of what was related to me but for the sake of blog brevity I’ve shortened the story) So on Day Three, she reached out to the manager seeking some relief but none was offered except to suggest she should “…hang in there and things would work themselves out” and to her knowledge nothing else was said or done with regard to the offending co-worker. There were no other assurances provided.
So if you place yourself in her shoes, what might you conclude so soon in a job? You’re new; your direct co-worker is abusive for whatever reason and attempting to find common ground with them only makes matters worse. And the manager, to whom you appealed and who could have very easily brought both parties together in order to facilitate a resolution – didn’t. So what do you do; what would you do?  Do you just take it, forsake dignity by allowing yourself to be a verbal punching bag, do you fight back or should you go over the boss’s head? Obviously, none of these are viable solutions, so after considering her options, she quit on the morning of the fourth day. So who failed? In this particular case and in my expert opinion it was surely not the new employee.  Rather, it must be concluded the employer failed her but, more specifically, the manager who for whatever reason chose not to step in and do what managers are supposed to do, that is, to manage. In military terms it would be described as a dereliction of duty.
Meanwhile, the offending person remains happily in place, smug in knowing she protected her turf from a newly hired person, which any outside observer would logically conclude, she viewed as a threat. But even worse, as a result of management’s failure to step in and impose any discernable repercussions, they’ve in reality given the green light, which suggests that such behavior is and will be acceptable when the next new employee arrives.
So what should we conclude from this story: what is the instructive element here for readers to gain from this blog entry? Well, there are a few things. The employee who started and shortly left her new job did the right thing. Consider that she evaluated the situation recognizing that       there was no indication the situation would improve but, in fact, all indications were that it would further degrade, even after seeking to find a solution directly with her co-worker. Failing that, she turned to the manager who demonstrated no willingness to step in to oversee or engage in any rudimentary conflict resolution. The result: a new employee was left to conclude nothing would change and she could rely on no help from management. So if it were you, would you invest three days or three months before making a decision of what to do? If one does not stand up for their own self-respect, who else will.
And although you never really know until you start a new job, do your best during the interview process to learn as much as you can, asking questions to gain as much information as you can because there is always more at stake than job title, duties, and money. Here are a few examples of questions to add to your repertoire:
  • Why is the position open?
  • What happened to the last person in the position?
  • …and how long were they in the position?
And whenever it is possible, try to meet beforehand those with whom you will directly work.
I recognize the jobs market is tightening and good jobs are getting harder to find, but it is not only a matter of a potential employer qualifying the applicant. You the applicant need to dig as deeply as you can to learn as much as possible in order to minimize any surprises when you enter a new work environment. And if all else fails -- have a Plan B ready should you need it.

No comments:

Post a Comment