In so many facets of life, we take things for granted once we get used to them. People are no exception. We get very excited about new relationships whether social, customer (see, for example, When a Company Is No Longer That into You) or recent hires. But, once they lose their honeymoon halo, we tend to lose our enthusiasm and, not infrequently, we can become over critical, even abusive. Yes, I really mean abusive.
In thinking about conversation with employees over the years in interviews, focus groups and informal encounters, it is evident that a significant percentage of them really can’t stand their boss. And, this feeling extends to all levels of the organization — all the way to direct reports to the CEO. Of course, a much larger percentage of employees are ambivalent about their bosses. So why is anybody surprised that employee engagement hovers at about 30%?
The funny thing is that most of these employees accepted their positions believing they would be starting good jobs. There was obviously good mutual chemistry in the interview process and the belief by the employer that the new hire’s capabilities were a good fit. So what happened?. It’s really pretty simple. We hire based on an emotional expectation of great things from new people, near perfection. When this fails to happen, managers sour on their new talent who quickly feel the change. Once this occurs, the honeymoon is over. So let’s find a way to stop this syndrome. Here are some steps in the right direction:
1.Have reasonable expectations. Expect your new hires to be a breath of fresh air, but understand that they are joining an organization they do not know. They will make mistakes. First drafts of work won’t be formatted or detailed at the level you expect. The right people won’t automatically be kept in the loop. Their sense of urgency and priority won’t match yours. It won’t be weaker, just different because they will not know you. You need to expect these issues to go on for six months, so reverse your perspective. Expect the world from new hires in year 2. Then, as they improve in year 1, you can feel good about it and show it.
2.Expect to work hard at relationships with employees. We all know that successful marriages take hard work. In fact, tradition tells us that we learn to love more by giving more. Apply the same philosophy to your people. Expect to work hard to earn the engagement you want. Trust me, it will be appreciated and the results will be palpable, both in engagement scores and business results.
3.Build the “work for engagement” ethic into your culture. Shift your leaders’ and managers’ thinking on this subject with a series of workshops. Make this new mindset a key business imperative. In advance of the workshops, gather data from your people in focus groups led by an independent facilitator. It won’t be hard to get the proof you need. Your people are hungry to tell their story.
4.Make first-year engagement of new hires a critical measure of manager performance. What gets measured gets done. If you care enough to base rewards on doing this well, your managers will see that it happens.
If your are honest about it, you will see this problem for what it is and get the help you need to fix it. You won’t be sorry!