One reader writes:
I’m a fairly new manager and I have the opportunity to grow my team, which is a step in my career that I’m really looking forward to. I am currently running one person and have just gone through the hiring process for another. This was my first hire at this company and we don’t have a human resources department so I had to figure out the process by myself for the most part. I did my due diligence and found a great candidate who checked all the criteria, was generally liked by our team and had great references.
He accepted our offer, announced his previous company and set a start date for this week. But from the moment he arrived on day one, I felt like something was wrong. I planned a pretty typical first day (tech setup, office tour, welcome dinner, team meeting, and time to review onboarding documents), but it was silent, cold, and not engaging. I chalked it up for the nervousness of the first day / the weirdness. However, the next morning I got an email that he was resigning immediately.
I was racking my brain to find out what went wrong. His email stated that the role was different from what he expected, but I made it very clear throughout the interview process what this role entails and he expressed his enthusiasm for the work and our team. I can’t imagine that he learned anything on the first day that could have changed his entire attitude. I really don’t understand what happened.
This feels like a huge failure and I’m upset, confused, and a little embarrassed. Do I have to do something differently in the future or is it just a strange situation? How do I get ahead and show my own boss that I’m still made for a manager?
There’s a very good chance this wasn’t about you! Sometimes it just happens. He might have got another offer that he was pretty sure he would take this morning … or he would have questioned accepting the job the whole time and realized after the first day that he had been wrong about accepting it … or his old job could have been a counter offer and he realized he wanted to come back to them … or he was dealing with something personal that you had no idea about … or this could be the third job he did on his first day quit … or he could have recognized Xavier in the accounting department as someone he assumed … or a million other explanations. There’s a very good chance this isn’t about you at all!
However, when something strange happens, it is always wise to think about whether there is anything you need to change in your own practice. You could do things like:
• Talk to your other employee about their onboarding and ask if they think something could have gone better with their own experience.
• Read the job posting again to make sure it really reflects the job. Imagine if you had never worked in your company and think how exactly it would really give you an idea of the work and the culture. Think back to the interview process with this question too.
• See if you can figure out when the cold and withdrawal from your new hired man started. If he was already radiating cold that first morning, it almost certainly had nothing to do with you. If it happened after his first morning meeting, take another look at what happened in that meeting. (But I suspect it’s more like the former as you said something was wrong from the moment he arrived.)
• Think if anything happened between accepting the offer and starting it. Did you casually mention that your entire office works 70 hour weeks? Have you sent him a strange document for signature agreeing that he can be fired if his friends and family do not follow your company’s religious values? Did you tell him that in his first week he would write a deeply personal poem? Any of them would.
• Talk to anyone else who spoke to him that day and see if he has any insight – sometimes people say something to a coworker that they don’t tell their manager (like, “I just got another one last night Got an offer ”or“ my wife ”just left me” or who knows what).
You can tell your boss that you do too and walk them through your conclusions, which will likely counter any concerns on their part that something went wrong on the company’s side.
But really, I’d bet my money on your (ex) employee, not you.