how to terrify your new employee

You’ve just made a promising new hire. But when she shows up to start work, all that effort that you put into recruiting the right person can go up in a puff of smoke when her first weeks aren’t well planned out.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I tell you how you can ensure that your new hire gets off on the wrong foot – and possibly never recovers. You can read it here.


{ 168 comments… read them below }

    1. Jenn*

      Literally every job I’ve had is the master of all of these.

      Twice now I’ve taken jobs where there are boxes being stored in the cubicle which means that I then have to be the nag who continously demands to have them removed. Last job, after two months I pissed off the admin by shoving them into the mail room. The boxes were all owned by someone who was fired from another department.

  1. Ms Scotland*

    (Semi anon for this post)
    Numbers 1 & 3 happened an awful lot with my old job…which is one of the reasons why it’s an old job. I usually ended up training the new people as management didn’t have the time/people skills/knowledge of the system to do it.

    As for not introducing people, also at my former job, when I had already put in my notice period and was in the “can’t wait to leave” stage, a part time temp joined us and was immediately introduced to one and all and was allocated a “team” to support. She left within 2 weeks. I felt sorry for her new “team”. (as well as for her, I was telling her to get out while she could!)

    1. Valar M.*

      So true about 1 & 3. As far as introductions at least you were still there to comment, and people understood you were leaving. I had a job where I was introduced very awkwardly. Instead of “Hey meet Jane, she is our new teapot maker” it was “Hey meet Jane, Jane is the new Wakeen” Which was almost always emphatically met with cries of “Oh my! I miss Wakeen!” “Wakeen was so fantastic.” “Whoa is me, What happened to Wakeen!” and then diverted into a conversation about what Wakeen was doing now and why, while I stood there and listened to it over and over.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Some years ago, I came back as a consultant to a former employer to offer some training for the person who was going to be assuming a role I had left a year earlier. I felt really bad for this person (first job out of college), as the training unfortunately was in an open-air environment, and she had to endure various people coming by and asking her if she was the “New College Career Counselor” or (worse) if I was going to be coming back.

        Out of earshot of everyone later, I asked her what was her biggest fear about taking the position. That’s when she said, “is there ANYthing about this job that is enjoyable” and seemed on the verge of quitting. Apparently, every single person in the office who spoke to her about the job since she’d started two weeks prior said that they were so glad it was she and not them because there was NO WAY they’d want to do this job EVER because it was such a pain in the ass to work with students, and she would see–just wait.

        I told her that (for me, at least) working with students was the absolute best part of the job and that the comments she was getting were a reflection of non-student centered people who had no idea how to do the job, didn’t want to do it, and were frankly scared that the dean was going to make them do it if she hadn’t been hired. I said, “if you like working with and helping students, this is a GREAT first job.”

        I checked in with her a few months later to see how things were going, and happily she said that I’d been right. She wound up staying there several years and did very well and attained another degree, before moving on to other organizations. But, boy, what a thoughtless, terrible way to introduce someone to the job.

      2. Maya*

        I had a similar experience. At my first job (research coordinator at a university), the person who I was replacing introduced me to everyone (we overlapped by 2 weeks) by walking me from office to office. She would introduce me by saying, “This is Maya, she’s the new ‘me’. [long pause]” This was almost always followed by what Valar M. described – 10 minutes of what she was doing next, how they can’t believe she is “leaving them”, how nobody can replace her (seriously). She was definitely good at her job, which I respected, but it was such a terribly impersonal introduction (that was 99% about her). Such an awkward way to start a relationship with my colleagues.

      3. V&SFX Addict*

        I work for a company where in order to move into my “new cubicle” I had to clean out the mess a hoarder left from another group – a month before I arrived.
        My first week laid out:
        1. I was told by three other employees they weren’t paying me enough. I didn’t discuss my compensation with them.
        2. I was told that I was the sixth person they’ve hired for my position.
        3. I am still hunting down people I need to speak to concerning the work the person I replaced did NOT do.
        4. I am going to be going through information that has not been organized since… ever.

        Instead of being bummed by this I’m excited to show people just how different I am and to distance myself from the employee I’ve been referred to as the “new” version of. When my project is done, it will make my C/V look fantastic if I get laid off or have to leave for any reason. Oh, and job security because no one else will touch it – so the credit will be all mine. I’ve made it a point to introduce myself to other employees and be positive about what I’m doing.

        I’ve actually had worse to deal with so this job isn’t intimidating off the bat. Ask me in six months where I’m at. I at least know who is in charge, will get a paycheck that won’t bounce, and don’t have stupid coworkers opening emails from the Ukraine which crash the servers.

  2. Chocolate Teapot*

    My first day in a new job, I was shown to a chair, and a big pile of post plonked on the desk. It took me until mid-afternoon to sort. I was an admin so it was part of the role, but then, several months later when some new admins started and I had to to train them, my boss told me to “Let them settle in and read the company brochure”.

    Which was all very nice for them, except I was running around trying to pull in all the work, and thinking these would be ideal easy tasks to set new people up with. I don’t think I ever got to properly read the company brochure.

  3. BRR*

    My former employer was great at doing variants of 1 and 3. It was very common for a new employee’s desk to not have been touched since the last person left. It was often a mess and completely filled with the last person’s crap or it had become a dumping ground and was covered in old papers or old technology. Then they would sit you down and say get to work and leave you. How did you figure out what your duties were? People would come over and say they last person in your position did this and dump it on you. The common phrase was, “They throw you to the sharks then get mad when you get blood on the carpet.”

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      See, now I hated that. I think there is nothing worse than coming in to a desk that looks suspiciously like the last person vacated it in a hurry. So I was always very nice to any new people and cleared away an ex-employees stuff and made sure that when I left there was just general office items like staplers, pens etc on the desk. No left notebooks half filled with notes for example…

      1. BRR*

        I think spacial preparation is hugely important. They didn’t have a desk for one coworker so they stuck them at a folding table next to another desk where neither employee could even scoot out their chair to get up.

    2. Adam V*

      > “They throw you to the sharks then get mad when you get blood on the carpet.”

      That’s brilliant. I’ll definitely use that in the future!

    3. rory*

      “The common phrase was, “They throw you to the sharks then get mad when you get blood on the carpet.””

      That is SO TRUE and a great way of putting it, wow.

  4. Emmaloo*

    My entire job has become “other duties as assigned.” When people leave, their positions are not refilled- so what I though was an event planner job has essentially become backup receptionist/office assistant. I hate not being able to assert myself, but I can’t refuse to do anything. Time to ramp up the job search :\

  5. BAM*

    My first day not only was the boss late, the building was locked, so I had to sit in my car in the parking lot for an hour until she arrived! Sitting in the lobby as in your example would have been a step up!

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Oh man, this has reminded me of a retail job I had for all of 2 weeks (I cried after every shift) where it was located in a shopping centre that was opening not at its usual time but 10 or 11 due to a local holiday and I had NO idea of how to get in to the shop as I’d just assumed I would walk into the shopping centre to the shop! I can’t actually remember how I did get it – I might have been late starting, waiting for the centre to open. It didn’t get any better from there.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I had a job on the breakfast shift of the local Hardee’s. Only the manager had a key. Anyone else arriving had to get his attention and get him to let you in. This was before cell phones were ubiquitous. He failed one morning to notice me pounding on the window (this is in the dark at 5am) and wrote me up for being late when he finally noticed me, and chewed me out for not pounding loudly enough.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          If only you had the strength of that manager that put dents in one LW’s house from pounding on the siding so hard.

          But seriously, that sucks.

    2. Elysian*

      I once worked somewhere were a new employee started on a snow day, but no one had told her the snow day policy. Since she didn’t have keys yet she couldn’t get into the building. There were people in the office, but none of the staff was there, so no one answered the phone. I think eventually she sneaked in with someone else. It was a mess for her, I wish I had known how to contact her and clue her in!

      1. cuppa*

        I know someone that this happened to, too. They actually told him he was fired until they figured out that no one had let him in.

    3. Academic Adviser*

      My office accidentally did this to a new boss once. Her supervisor was a faculty member who doesn’t keep regular hours in the office and didn’t delegate the responsibility for welcoming her to anyone else. On her first day, all of the staff just came in the back door as usual and no one realized that the new boss was just waiting outside the front door for 15 minutes.

    4. Ethyl*

      I had a temp job where I couldn’t get into the building until the boss (I mean, it was me and him and this high school girl who was a friend of his daughter) got there, and I would then have to leave if he left. I lasted about a week before calling my temp agency and explaining the situation to them. Luckily they were understanding that I had better uses of my time (school, full-time job search, volunteering) than sitting in a parking lot in a bad part of town waiting and not getting paid.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      This reminded me of a funny (now) first day for me. I was self-employed, cleaning houses, and had a new job several miles out of town. I arrived and the property had a fence and sign on the closed gate that said “Vicious dogs. Stay in car and honk horn.” Except I was on a bicycle. It was pre-cell phone days and I’d just biked several miles to get there on time.

      I made the stupid decision to go in anyway, and got lucky: the dogs had been put down the week before for killing cattle, and they hadn’t had a chance to take down the sign.

      Yup, nice safe lobby sounds great to me, too!

    6. Mary*

      I always ask new people to start at 10 am on their first day. I start at 9 and used to try to get in at 8.45 on the day new people started so I could be ready for them but there they say at 9.45. Over the years I have been pushing back their start time on the first day later and later so I can be prepared when they arrive early. This year I told the new girl 10 am, she arrived at 9.

      I want to look cool and calm when they arrive with my computer on etc. Not rushing past them with work bag, lunch, etc and trying to dump everything to go back and collect them.

  6. Academic Adviser*

    In my last job, I arrived on my first day to find that my predecessor was a slob and no one had cleaned her office during the months it was empty. There was a layer of visible dust covering everything, the keyboard keys were black and gray, and I found human hair and almonds on the floor under the desk. I managed to get through my first day, then spent my second day cleaning. When I left after a year, I tried to keep everything neat and in order for the next person but later found out that the rest of my office immediately scavenged all of my furniture as soon as I left and they moved her desk into a corner of the file room.

    1. Kacie*

      I also inherited a slob desk once. It was so gross, there was ancient spilled coffee in the drawers.

      1. Leah*

        Me too! It was awful! There was one that was so messy that I had to set aside 30 minutes a day for nearly two weeks until my desk was cleared.

      2. Nicole*

        Try getting moved to a desk that was actively being used until that day when the desk swap occurred, yet was still filthy! I used a lot of those Clorox wipes that day. :)

    2. Adam V*

      > the keyboard keys were black and gray

      Ew. I’d have immediately gone to the IT department for a new keyboard.

      Then again, I’ve brought my own ergo keyboard to my last 3 jobs.

    3. Midge*

      I had a job temping for someone who was out on medical leave. So I didn’t expect her desk to be pristine… but there was an open salt packet in her top drawer, and open bags of goldfish and cereal in the filing cabinet. This was an old building where insects and vermin were a big problem, so it’s beyond me why she didn’t get rid of these things before going out on leave.

      Also, at the same workplace, I moved into a desk previously occupied by a tea drinker. She had spilled some of her loose leaf tea and did a poor job of cleaning it up. So when I first opened up the drawer, I thought it was full of mouse poop! I’m very glad that was not the case.

    4. Valar M.*

      Been there. And actually predecessor had moved into a higher position and had an office within view of mine, which made it all the more awkward for me to clean it!

    5. KJ*

      I’m pretty sure I win this game: I once started an internship and found that the center desk drawer (the shallow one for pencils and pens) was full of fingernail clippings. I slammed the drawer shut and never opened it again through the whole internship, but I always felt bad the the next intern would probably think they were mine.

      1. Stuck in the Snow*

        Except that I was the admin assistant who had to clean that drawer out! (okay, not literally *your* drawer – this was at a different company). I was cleaning a cube out for a new employee and found the middle drawer full-0-clippings, and much to my horror, had to clean it.

        But seriously, who does that? I could never respect that employee afterwards, and believe me, I told people about it too.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        OMG ME TOO!!! I started a new job and the center drawer was full of fingernail clippings. I asked my admin if we had a small vaccum or something I could use to clean it out. I then got called into a meeting. When I came out, it was all clean. Best admin ever. I can’t believe there are at least 3 people out there (our predecessors) that kept fingernail clippings in their center drawer. EW.

    6. James M*

      I always suggest people bring their own keyboard/mouse if they use a computer at work. Other people’s hands have been places you don’t want to think about, and 9 times out of 10, the standard issue office keyboard is one of those clunky Dell “qwerthritis” keyboards.

      I like the keyboards with the scissor action ½-height keys.

  7. Ash (the other one!)*

    Ugh, as I am about to start my new job in a week these all sound miserable. Is there advice on the flip side for if you’re the new employee facing these things?

    1. Academic Adviser*

      I try to prepare myself as much as I can for my first day. I bring my own notebook and pen, pack some non-perishable snacks in my purse until I know the kitchen setup, etc. If I’m not given anything to do, I can usually occupy myself for at least a day by reading up on websites and whatever other internal documents I can find lying around. My biggest advice is to write everything down – or do whatever it is that helps you remember things, but writing is good because it’s obvious to everyone else that you’re working hard. Good luck!

      1. Kelly L.*

        I also always, always bring ibuprofen. I’ve managed to get a stress migraine on my first day at a couple of jobs, and sometimes I think just knowing I’m prepared helps ward it off. And yes, snacks and a little cash and pen and paper.

      2. Anonathon*

        Ditto on the snacks. Also: prepare for the office to be either the Sahara or the Arctic. I was shivering my entire first day at my current job, as my desk is directly under the AC vent.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      And, slightly longer term: I wrote down things that I had figured out and that the next new person would find useful. Therefore, I could help out the new people after me, so they have a better start.

    3. some1*

      Good tips. If you’re a coffee drinker, have enough to get by before work or bring your own until you figure out the coffee situation.
      Have patience with the receptionist, security person, etc if your new boss dropped the ball and they have no idea who you are.

      Observe the culture around you to help you make sure you don’t inadvertently do something that’s Just Not Done in some places. For example, if you don’t see anyone with headphones on, you’ll at best look odd if you listen to music with them on.

    4. Lisa*

      I would say maybe drive past your new office and get the lay of the land in terms of nearby coffee and fast food places. Or at least Google it. That way you don’t spend your first day’s lunchtime looking for a place and getting back late – you’ll already know where to go.

  8. Holly*

    How about “be honest with her very quickly about how stingy the owner is in getting us resources” and “admit to her that her boss is incompetent.” I…may have been guilty of these in my new manager’s first week. She’s amazing and I don’t want to scare her off but it’s also the truth… (it doesn’t help that she has a 3 month starter contract so she might take off running the second that’s over.)

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    I have also been subject to the Everyone-stuffs-off-for-lunch-without-telling-you situation. As the first day in a new job can feel very nerve wracking, I can’t face a large plate of bacon and eggs for breakfast, which is what I often eat on days when I know I am going to be busy.

  10. Kelly O*

    Oh, I relate to this one. The best part is telling someone their job will be a certain thing percentage-wise. Acknowledge in the interview it’s a bit tedious, but affirm it’s just part of the work. When they arrive, make sure all they do is that tedious work, and then right before you leave, let them know it’s actually the majority of what they’ll be doing.

    Bonus points if your new employee is coming from either unemployment or a company that’s closed, and has little recourse in the way of trying to go back to an old position, or can’t.

  11. KC*

    #1-#3 happened to me at the start of my job back in March. I was nearly ready to go crawling back to my last job to beg for them to take me back. It took three MONTHS before I felt okay at this job, and that was after I was a near crazy person for months. This company employs almost 14,000 people. You’d think they’d have the whole onboarding people thing together by now. Not okay, employers. Not okay.

  12. David*

    #5 is a big issue I’m dealing with in my department now. We go through great pains to analyze needs for new FTEs based on a list of pre-defined responsibilities in conjunction with time studies. Then, when we hire the person, we almost immediately try turning them into something else by cross-training them and handing off responsibilities that were never part of the original job description. And within a couple of weeks we all sit around wondering why our staffing models don’t seem to work, the new person isn’t able to meet productivity goals and everyone is generally confused about what everyone else’s role is.

    And when I say “we”, I’m being generous. It’s generally just the department manager who’s left wondering all these things but isn’t willing to see the obvious.

    1. Frances*

      I always wonder what the person who was hired to replace me at my last job thought she was being hired for, since I spent my last few weeks there trying to update the job description to be a more accurate description of everything I was doing in the proper percentages only to be fought by senior management every step of the way.

      My favorite was when our budget manager, who backed me up on answering the phones and complained constantly about how often it rang, insisted I couldn’t possibly be spending 30% of my time on reception duties.

      1. Chinook*

        “My favorite was when our budget manager, who backed me up on answering the phones and complained constantly about how often it rang, insisted I couldn’t possibly be spending 30% of my time on reception duties.”

        I had this happen to me when I was a receptionist because my first day there was also the first day for everyone in business they just acquired which also came with a lot of clients who would call and just drop by. Office Manager asked me to log the number of calls and visitors I dealt with and the partners thought I was inflating the numbers until one of them was stuck waiting for a late client in our lobby and actually saw the constant flow of people and calls.

        1. DLB*

          It baffles my mind when management wants you to keep track of things like this, and then don’t believe the results.

  13. Concerned*

    At my first adult job, I walked right into the office and my staff members shouted HALT at me. It startled me a bit. But then I quickly said who I was and they felt bad.

  14. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Well, this is timely, as we have a new employee starting on Monday and I am in charge of setting her up with all the training she will need. She filled out new employee paperwork this morning, but because this is a large university, I’m concerned about whether she will have access by Monday to email and some of the other programs she’ll need to use.

    A university ID number is needed to get email access, keys, etc. and there is an approval chain of about a dozen people before the number is generated. The budget officers have recently been told (by upper admin) that we have to stop calling each person in the approval chain to expedite the process (apparently it is aggravating to receive those requests to expedite the process every single time a new employee is hired), so we just have to sit on our hands and hope that nobody in the chain takes too long to do their part.

    1. ali*

      This is not unusual for a university environment. When I started my last university job, it took a week before I had email/access. I was hired as the department IT person, so they didn’t have a computer ready or set up for me. I managed to hack into an old iMac that had been left in my office, and used that for 3 months before the school’s IT department managed to get me a real computer.

      Hopefully you’ll have some sort of documentation/reading materials for her those first few days/weeks so she doesn’t have to just sit around doing nothing while waiting for access.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I had email access from my first day but not access to any of the folders I need to do my job for up to 3 weeks. I am still waiting on IT access for specific online application system and I’ve been here 8 weeks now and am unlikely to get it until the IT person gets back from holiday…

    2. Not So NewReader*

      In the spirit of Alison’s article here, I think that they should add 12 more people to the approval chain and the time it takes is the time it takes. No worries, the new hire won’t use all that spare time to look for a new job.

    3. fposte*

      I was just thinking of this–we have the same problem, and in some positions it’s tough to find something for people to do before the tech access is enabled. (And there’s like four different species of tech access that are never all enabled at the same time.) We do at least get people introduced, though.

    4. Frances*

      At my last job in academia, our director insisted our particular school have an onsite IT staff (everyone else had to use the central IT office, which we were 30 minutes away from). Yay, so lucky! Except that they let the staff be managed by someone who didn’t even work in our state, much less in the building and every year he let them ALL go on vacation the week of orientation. Even though the manager himself flew in for the orientation and knew *exactly* when it was, he was too spineless to tell the staff they themselves had to be there. We were onboarding at least a dozen new postdocs and grad students a year, and only the really technically savvy were able to follow the instructions they left to hook their computers to the network — the rest of them had to wait a week until the IT staff came back for vacation.

    5. OhNo*

      I have been working (part time) at a higher ed institution for about a year and a half now… and I still haven’t gotten my ID card/badge. All six of the people hired in my area since then have gotten their card on the first day, and I’m still waiting.

      At least my boss was appropriately shocked and apologetic when I brought it up last week. ( But I still haven’t gotten the stupid card.)

      1. Windchime*

        When I first started in IT, all the existing employees had picture name badges. We were required to wear these. The only problem was, several new employees and I had not been issued badges despite having asked several times. I finally gave up asking.

        One day about eight months after starting, the CIO was visiting and he wanted to know why we were not wearing the required badges. We explained that we had never been issued badges and had given up asking since it had been so long. As it turns out, there was an Admin who was in charge of creating them and she had just never gotten around to it. After the CIO looked into it, we finally got our badges.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          I would have had a hard time NOT saying, “Badges!? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

  15. A. D. Kay*

    Every single thing on that list has happened to me. Sometimes more than once. Not reassuring when you’re at a major IT company and are told to use someone else’s username and PW to do your work.

  16. Kacie*

    #1 happened to me. I said I could start whenever, I was flexible. HR gave me a start date. When I got to work, my manager and my direct equivalent were both out on vacation. Manager’s manager had me sit with other departments to “observe.” They had no idea why I was there. It was so miserable, and a true insight on how the rest of my time would go at that job. I didn’t even last a year, my shortest professional stint to date.

  17. kdizzle*

    I started a job where on the first day, my boss said, “Your first duty is to figure out how to get Bob into the payroll system; he’s been here since September and hasn’t been paid yet.”

    I started that job in mid-November. Poor Bob. The person I was replacing typically handled things like that, but for no one to care to figure out how to pay a guy who had been sitting in an empty office for a month and a half (he also had no computer and was bringing his personal laptop in each day; they didn’t understand the computer purchasing process) is just cruel.

    I should’ve run like the wind after that first day.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      And good companies, that are actually trying, go under. It just doesn’t seem right.

    2. Amy B.*

      Perhaps it was an Office Space/Milton situation:

      Dom Portwood: So, uh, Milton has been let go?
      Bob Slydell: Well, just a second there, professor. We, uh, we fixed the glitch. So he won’t be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it’ll just work itself out naturally.
      Bob Porter: We always like to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Problem is solved from your end.

  18. Lily in NYC*

    Well dang. I got all excited when I saw the subject line because I thought you were going to give me new ways to haze the interns (I’ve been messing with them but they love it, I promise. It’s not real hazing – I don’t make them drink til they puke or anything like that!).

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Well, no I didn’t really think she was going to give hazing advice; that was a joke. But I am definitely messing with the new interns – just stuff like calling them all in for a meeting to give them a “difficult project” to work on – but in reality I got them an ice cream cake and there was no new project. Nothing bad and not real hazing.

        1. Todd*

          Yeah that’s not hazing, I would be careful with that term, what you described in your second post are just harmless antics.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Why would I have to be careful about what word I use on a blog where I am anonymous? It’s not like I use the word hazing at work.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        What the hell? Yes, I am professional. I just had my performance review this week and it was awesome and came with a big fat raise. Even though I am technically at the top of my salary range. Because in my boss’ words: we love you and want to keep you happy.

    1. Clever Name*

      I hope this is tongue-in-cheek. The only people who enjoy hazing are the ones doing the hazing.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Lily, don’t give up. Others, come on, people joke around in offices. It’s not always mean-spirited, unprofessional, demeaning, or in any other way dangerous.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Thanks Alison. I am always surprised when people take what seems to me to be obvious hyperbole so literally.

            1. James M*

              Just let it go. Not everyone can boast a mastery of the obvious, and you’re not to blame for those who can’t.

    2. Eden*

      Gosh, this was clearly tongue-in-cheek. I’d love to be ‘hazed’ with an ice cream cake.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Who doesn’t love a Carvel cake! I was floored that one of the interns (from CA) had never heard of Carvel before – I didn’t realize it’s not available nationwide.

        1. Sara*

          I thought this was hilarious! But I’ve grown up eating carvel so I kind if hate it. (Would never turn it down though!) :)

    3. LadyTL*

      When someone’s response to people not finding their “joke” funny is essentially come on guys it’s just a joke and all in good fun, that usually is a big red flashing sign that their “joke” was never funny to begin with.

      I understand that you feel your treatment of your interns is fine and funny but that you thought of it as hazing first should be a big waning sign. Not everyone is fine with being lied to by a superior or having their time wasted by talking up a big project meeting only for it to be cake. Also I doubt you actually know if they are okay with your antics since they are interns and could easily lose their positions.

      Joking around in offices is fine when it is done with people of the same power level and with everyone’s agreement on it.

      1. Jubilance*

        Seriously, relax. Are you new here? Cause most of us who have been here for a while knew it was a joke. I seriously doubt that someone on a career blog is really going to talk about hazing interns in a serious manner.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I can just see it: Dear Alison, I am an intern and the boss’ assistant held a meeting to tell us about a new difficult project we’d have to help with. When we arrived, it turned out it was really a surprise party with ice cream cake. I am furious! Is this even legal? Should I go to HR to complain because I am lactose intolerant?
        Honestly, I am not even going to try to defend myself because it is just so ridiculous.

  19. AndersonDarling*

    Almost all these happened to me at old job. The office was moving and the new hires were brought in before the regular employees moved to the new city.
    We started on a tour where the HR rep dropped the new hires off at their desk along the way. I was the first desk we passed, so I never got a tour. There were no seasoned employees, just new hires milling about wondering what to do. It was months before I found where the cafeteria was.

    I didn’t have a password for 2 weeks, and that was the same time my boss came into the office for the first time.

    Three months into the job I was told I wouldn’t be an administrative assistant anymore, I was now an accountant. And I better figure out how to do that.

  20. Jillociraptor*

    Might I also suggest “having no idea of the long-term charge or priorities of this position?” It’s pretty harrowing when a new hire asks for guidance on how they should be prioritizing their work and the hiring manager can’t answer. (Or worse, as a colleague experienced, “Part of your job is figuring that out.” Followed, of course, by regular “serious talks” about how he was not prioritizing the right things.)

  21. LMW*

    I’ve had all these things happen to me.
    I’ve also had jobs where I didn’t know how/where to collect my pay, how to order supplies or where the bathroom was for ridiculous periods of time.
    At one of my favorite companies, they had such a great, thorough orientation (though admittedly, it seemed really long at that time) that they even had 15 minute meetings where someone came up to make sure you knew how to adjust your chair and desk so it was comfortable for you and another person would go over proper file saving and archiving procedures. There was even an office supply ordering orientation. And a how to ship things orientation. And a here’s how we answer the phone here orientation. If I’d been more experienced, it might have seemed like micromanagement, but since it was really in my career, it was so useful.

    1. Nicole*

      I would have loved that place, particularly the proper file saving and archiving procedures. All companies should provide such guidance because the haphazard way people digitally file documents is not helpful to an organization. They need to implement standards so that there’s consistency.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        They need to have a records manager to design and enforce those standards, is what they need. Because otherwise whose idiosyncratic way is going to trump everyone else’s?

  22. Sabrina*

    Similiar to #5, lie to her about the job in the interview because you need a warm body in a desk and you don’t wnt to pay for what the job really is. Besides, you’re pretty sure you can bully her into doing what you want even though she doesn’t have those skills. Act offended when she’s not the type to put up with bullying even from her boss.

    1. GenericGen*

      Yup. This was my last job. Lied to about the duties because it was a suck job and no one would want to do this if they knew what it really entailed (and there is some suspicion that I was hired to replace an employee they wanted to fire). Lied to about raises and work environment. Job turned more and more into clerical and reception although it was supposed to be mostly accounting. I found out after I was gone that management told OldBoss to stop hiring accountants since this work is clerical/reception and accountants won’t be happy doing it. Ya think? I am starting a new job next week and found out that they have had two people in OldJob since July 1st. Nice. I am amazed I made it nine months; I was considered an old timer in that position. I am sure by September there will be more turnover there.

  23. AtrociousPink*

    First time poster here: 1 & 3, baby. My last job, I show up like 5 minutes early. There’s no receptionist, but at least the office isn’t locked. I have a seat in the waiting area. Eventually, the office manager (whom I hadn’t met yet) walks through, looks curiously at me for a split second, and then it dawns on him and he looks faintly annoyed. This pretty much set the tone for my entire time there. Later, I realized he wanted me to fail in the job because he hated my boss and didn’t want him to have a good assistant. (This was one messed-up office, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.) And of course I got no training, my computer was only half set up, and my desk was a disaster that took a month to clean up and organize. Oh, and I did not fail despite the office manager’s best efforts, but when my old job called me back a year later, I went.

  24. Lia*

    Wow, much of this sounds like an internship I had. The director hired me, and forgot to tell anyone that I was coming. I spent the first two days reading software manuals in a waiting area, as they hadn’t assigned me to a mentor either.

    Despite that, I wound up enjoying my time there and doing well, but geeez.

  25. Nanc*

    I’m going to go with the basics:
    1. Where are ALL the bathrooms–because sometimes there are . . . issues in one (and where do you keep extra TP)
    2. Where’s the breakroom/fridge/microwave/water fountain (and if you don’t have one, that’s fine–just tell me!)
    3. Where’s the nearest fire exit (and the nearest fire extinguisher)

    I can handle bad on boarding as long as I know the above!

  26. Tomato Frog*

    #2: Also, sending out an email telling people to introduce themselves to the new person is an inadequate substitute for doing the introductions yourself!

  27. TheExchequer*

    I’d say #1 is by far the most common. “Yeah, we want you to have access to Program X, but new user log-ins/passwords can only be generated by the light of the full moon when the great cheddar cheese comes to the earth and sees the shadow of the Great Pumpkin.”

      1. Jillociraptor*

        Right? It’s like a riddle: you have to get half of task A done to move on to task B, and then finish task C within 3 business days of completing task D, then finish the 2nd half of A, do a ritual dance, and maybe you’ll get your login, but maybe you’ll have to start over?

      2. Tasha*

        The justification we use here is “well, it only happens once for each person.” And that’s pretty much true, unless you change computers.

        Except that everyone who starts spends their first 1-3 months collecting a list of the programs they need and pestering the wrong people for login permissions (IT is divided between four groups, and some programs fall under different areas). Over the course of a few years, it becomes a remarkable achievement in inefficiency.

        1. TheExchequer*

          “a remarkable achievement in inefficiency”.

          And thus, the comic Dilbert was born. ;)

  28. Ann O'Nemity*

    I was hired to take over the job of someone who was retiring. Originally I was supposed to train under him for 3 weeks. On my first day, he announced that he had already sold his house and wanted to move to Florida NOW. So instead of 3 weeks, I got a single day of training. Sink or swim is right.

    1. Jennifer*

      Hah, we had an employee quit and give her 2 weeks notice. They shuttled me in to do her job part time (in addition to my usual one) and after she found that out, she didn’t finish out the 2 weeks–she super-quit the day after I went in there.

      She should have come back for her stuff, because I found stuff for her home business…boudoir photography…in the desk.* She also was printing out her business card on our ID maker, which somehow made it break. She’d ignored that it was (noisily) broken all day, so when we found it afterwards, we laughed.

      * No, not photos, just her business plan.

  29. cuppa*

    I once had a job where they had no desk or computer for me. I think they just ordered one that day for me. It arrived a few days later, and they just handed me the box. I had to set it up and put it together, and of course, the monitor was defective. So, I had to call the computer company and get that sorted out.
    I should have turned around and run.

  30. ThursdaysGeek*

    You missed one that I had at a previous job: my new office came with two black widow spiders, hanging near the ceiling kitty corner to each other, one right over my desk.

    That would have terrified most new people, but I’m cool with spiders, and once they started to move, they went into a jar. It was kind of nice being able to have pets at that job, and other co-workers would bring me the creepy-crawlies they found in their offices.

    Although, I guess when I got a new office mate, perhaps being put into an office where your co-worker keeps poisonous spiders might be a bit terrifying. Sorry!

    1. Alice*

      Thats.. kind of cool. I don’t think I’d stop shaking enough to catch them in a jar, but I’d bring it bugs!

  31. TeaBQ*

    My company is the WORST with not introducing people. If we’re lucky we’ll get an email saying the new hire is coming and “come over and say hi when you get a chance.” But more often than not someone new shows up and it’s up to everyone else to figure out if it’s a new hire, an intern, a vendor, a visitor, some random person wandering around, or who knows what.

  32. Mints*

    Yeah the tech one continues to happen here. The manager will clear a new hire with legal or HR, and not tell me specifics of what’s still pending. Then the day before the new hire starts, tell me “Make sure the computer is set up for the new hire”
    So I tell IT, which is in a different time zone, so they’ve already gone home. So they have to set everything up the morning of the new hire. And if there’s anything that needs to be done on-site, tough luck.
    There’s no reason at all the manager waits til the last second. And if I ask early “Do you want me to tell IT about the new hire?” “When do they start?” I get variations of “I got this. I’m the boss”

    I need a new job

    1. OhNo*

      Yikes. I wonder how many times the boss turns to the new hire and says “Well, I wanted to get you all set up for the first day, but our IT department and Mints are behind on that.”

      I mean, hopefully that doesn’t happen at all where you work, but that was definitely what happened at one of my past jobs. I was told multiple times “Oh, it’s so-and-so’s fault that you don’t have X”, when really they forget to tell so-and-so I needed it until two minutes before I was supposed to have it.

      Either way, you should definitely try for a new job with a boss that actually plans ahead!

      1. Mints*

        In this case, IT gets blamed. IT also got blamed when our AT&T went out (!)

        Although one time I was blamed in passing “My assistant should have sent you this email last week. Here’s the info” (in an email I was CCed on) when I was explicitly told not to email this person. A rant for another day!

        Okay, I’m feeling motivated to look through job boards

  33. Seal*

    At my one and only temp position, I was turned over to the woman I was replacing for training. As it turned out, this woman had started out as a temp several months prior and the company had planned to make her a permanent employee, but because they found out she lied about a felony conviction on her application they were letting her go. So for the next 3 weeks I had to be trained by and share a tiny cubicle with a bitter, angry, ignorant woman who called me “conservative” because I didn’t wear 80s-era acid washed jeans to work and gossiped about me when she thought I was out of earshot. Even better, once this woman left it became apparent that she never really understood her job in the first place, because almost everything she taught me was wrong. At least the person who trained me this time around knew what she was talking about.

    The first day after this woman left, I went into what was now my cubicle to find that she had left a large number of personal items behind; it was as if she had worked there for 20 years. To my horror, a giant cockroach scuttled out of the first box I picked up. It took the better part of the morning to clean up after this inconsiderate slob and the rest of the day to get over the cockroach.

    Although things got a bit better after that and I ultimately toughed it out for almost 3 months, I still don’t know why I didn’t just walk out the door after the first few days on the job.

  34. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m going through #1 3 and 5 right now. It’s PT, someone’s out for a few days, the owner’s on vacation etc.
    seem like nice people tho?

  35. JSO*

    I fell victim to all of these at my job 6 months ago. Especially number 5. I was shown the 6 years of filing that hadn’t been done and was told to organize and get it filed in 3 weeks along with my other job (that I was not hired for). I have not actually done anything related to the job I originally applied for. There is a happy ending; I have accepted another offer and will be starting elsewhere in a week and a half. Six months was too long to put up with it, but that and other things made me realize it was not a good fit for me.

  36. C Average*

    A few more:

    –Gossip about the new hire’s colleagues under the guise of offering “helpful” information.
    –Talk constantly about new hire’s predecessor and how he/she did the job, rather than focusing on what you want from the new hire.
    –Include the new hire in meetings that are held in different buildings, but fail to provide any guidance in how to get there, whether new hire will need badge access, where the meeting room is located, what the meeting is about, etc.
    –Offer vague instructions that require insider knowledge, e.g., “Oh, yeah, that file is on the network drive and is filed under our usual naming convention,” “please reach out to someone in Legal for that,” “that’s in the SOP, which is either on Sharepoint or Basecamp,” “that should be a simple database query,” etc.

    None of these have happened to me, but I’ve seen them happen to other people.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Oh! That reminds me, at my current job–which I actually like in most ways–my first couple of weeks were an endless Sisyphus-rock thing of trying to get a login on all the programs I needed to use. There were about 8 different ones and I had to get set up on each of them separately, and the permission for each had to come from different places.

  37. Nervous Accountant*

    I was thinking of posting my problem in the open thread…just started a new job and I already have soem concerns….would it be appropriate to post here or wait til tomorrow….?

    1. fposte*

      Alison’s been asking that new questions stick to the open threads–we’ll look for your query tomorrow, NA!

    2. SA*

      I’d wait until tomorrow in the open thread. It might get buried in here; and the folks on Open Thread day are all super helpful. They helped me stop FREAKING OUT after I started my new job and was having a terrible start. Hang in there!

  38. PJ*

    Have an all-hands staff meeting in a back corner of the office on a different floor and neglect to tell the new hire. Leave her to wonder where everyone has gone, then ask her why she wasn’t at the staff meeting.

    1. PJ*

      Oh, and same job… the woman who was assigned to train me for my new admin position informed me that they didn’t really use admins in that company — that the VP I was hired to support would be doing his own admin duties. She also informed me that the President of the company routinely went on raging rants during which she would fire about a third of the staff and she (my trainer) would have to call them at home and beg them to come back to work. I went to the in-house recruiter to ask her what the he(ck) she had gotten me into, and by the end of the day this woman had been walked out the door. I ended up having a long and happy career there, my VP was a great guy, and the President turned out to be an even-tempered, strong and kind mentor for me who took me with her to her next two companies.

  39. The Other Dawn*

    #3: My favorite saying at my old job was that our training program was as follows: We drive a new employee out to the middle of the desert, set them on fire, and then tell them to go find water to put themselves out.

    In our defense, we were a start-up so that’s kind of how things worked until we got our momentum going. I actually did quite well in that environment and I miss it.

  40. Jennifer*

    I remember starting this job: they did so very, very little training that I was doing work for about 15 minutes of every workday. It took them a loooooooooong time to start and finish it.

  41. Mimmy*

    #1 seems so common! In one job, I think it was several days before my station was properly set up. In fact, I think I was in another office for several weeks before going to my permanent spot.

    I think I had a bit of #3 in another job. The woman who was supposed to train me was out sick on my first day. But even when we did meet on my second day, she just handed me a bunch of past call logs to read over–most were calls she handled, and her handwriting was very difficult to read. All other training before taking calls was pretty much self-paced: mainly reading materials and watching videos with a little bit of 1:1 with my supervisor.

    My poor husband had #5 several years ago–on his very first day, it was clear that his job was significantly different than what he’d interviewed for, and was pretty miserable his whole tenure. (I too had started what turned out to be a very toxic job that same day–and it was our first wedding anniversary!!)

  42. meetoo*

    Unfortunately, I have experienced all of these more than once. At last job the first thing my manager said was “I wish you could start next week.” I had no idea how to respond.

    On my first day at my first real job after college they had a staff meeting where the sole purpose was to tell everyone what a bad job they have been doing and that they should all shape up or people are going to start getting fired. The director apologized to me after saying that I was of course not included but that everyone else deserved to get yelled at. This was a big red flag for things to come. And this was not the only place this has happened.

    Another time I was hired for a full time position at an organization where I regularly volunteered. I went in to train with the person I was replacing who I already knew. When I said “hi, I am here so you can train me” she burst into tears. Apparently they were replacing her, she was not leaving on her own, and had not told her. It was the most awkward interaction ever. I just left her crying and went home.

    1. Windchime*

      This is horrible! Did you end up coming back to replace her?

      Why would anyone treat their employee like this? She at least deserved a heads-up!

  43. LaNonymous*

    At my current job, I had 1, 2, 3, and 5 happen to me. My orientation was moved up a week than planned, so my manager ended up being on vacation. The lady who was assigned to train me me did not have any of my logins set up, so I was working under the trainer’s ID. I wasn’t introduced to anyone. She trained me for 30 minutes. (The training program we have now takes 3 weeks.) She gave me all these projects to do. Then I find out after the manager returns, not only were my duties far different than what she trained me on, but my logins were set up the day before my manager left– the “trainer” had me working under her name to boost her productivity, and I was doing work that she never got around to doing.

    1. ID Kidnapper*

      Wow. That is really awful. Did anything end up happening to the trainer for doing that to you?

      1. Lanonymous*

        Actually, because I caught onto the process and software well, and people began asking me to help them with the projects, she decided to transfer to another department.

  44. Cassie*

    So my friend has scared away 2 new hires at her workplace (she’s just a peer, not a supervisor). The first one came in to do paperwork and my friend was supposed to show her around, explain a little about the work, etc. The next day, when my friend asked HR when the new hire would start, they told her that she decided to stay at her old job.

    The other new hire worked for 4 days (Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday), and then she quit – the commute was too long for her (she didn’t drive), and she wanted to do something other than clerical work… why she accepted this clerical position in the first place is beyond me. But yeah, they hadn’t set up her computer logins yet and she didn’t meet with her supervisor yet either – my friend, the peer, was basically doing all the onboarding.

  45. ID Kidnapper*

    I’m fairly certain our new hire who showed up yesterday will be out the door shortly. Training is non-existent at my workplace and you have to rely on the two other people in the department to train you. Thankfully, both are nice people and helpful, but they actually aren’t allowed to do much training without going through the boss who is on a power trip and requires everything to go through him including getting paper for the copy machine. Funny thing is, the boss doesn’t actually know a lot of the things the new hire needs to know since he’s not licensed in the field and therefore cannot perform many of the tasks we perform anyway.

    So yeah, it’s a cluster fudge. I also wonder what new hire was told in the interview process since she actually thinks we leave at 5 p.m. Our work day is supposed to end then, but it almost never does. She’s actually kind of bitter that we don’t leave at that time. Makes me wonder if she was promised something else or just didn’t realize how often we go over the quitting time.

  46. New to blog*

    I recently graduated from college and found this blog during my search for guidance with resume/cover letter writing. I actually had #1 happen to me last summer on my first day of an internship. I was interning at a small local museum with a laid back culture and my boss told me to get there at 8:30 am to give her time to get settled (she usually arrived at 8). I get there and she wasn’t there and there were no instructions for the people that were there. So I sat in the lobby for 30 minutes. She showed up at 9 and apologized profusely. I felt so stupid sitting there with people walking back and forth. I haven’t found a job yet, but I really hope this doesn’t happen when that time comes.

  47. One of the Annes*

    On the first day of the job before my last one, I got to the office, and the office manager/receptionist and a few other people were there. The office manager didn’t introduce me to anyone or tell me where the bathrooms or breakrooms were. She immediately led me to a desk with a stack of work on it and told me that I could begin on it. I ended up having a fairly decent time at that company, though. The pay and benefits were good, and I was able to advance and grow career-wise. As far as the personal dynamic went, however, the job was not a good one. It often felt like, in the owner’s eyes, his/her employees were property to do with as (s)he saw fit. It’s really made me leery of ever working for a small privately owned company ever again. You’re really at the mercy of one individual’s whims.

  48. Mess*

    Ah! My my very first hire and manage-ee started on Monday. I was nervous to read this article, but I’m glad to say I’ve done everything mostly right. Unfortunately, this week was a little chaotic in the office because a lot of people are out, but hopefully we didn’t scare her too bad.

  49. FRRibs*

    My first after-school job set the tone when first day on the job, two very large men went at each other with a tree branch and a pipe. It was so dysfunctional it would have made a great 80s comedy.

    Current job; my trainer was out the first week I worked here, so they made me shadow a gentleman who sat in a dark room and read about European skiing for a few days, with the only thing I could do was sit in a chair next to him. From 7pm to 7am, in a secure environment where you couldn’t bring coffee…for a week. To top it off, they screwed up my paperwork and I didn’t get paychecks for more than a month…

  50. TL17*

    Here’s one to add: don’t communicate expectations and then yell at the new hire when s/he does the opposite of what is expected. I work somewhere with a small team. We recently took on a new hire, but manager didn’t tell new hire certain important things, like when to arrive and leave. When new hire left at the end of the day at a reasonable end-of-day time, manager became incensed that new hire didn’t have the sense to stay longer. Then new hire got the “you disappoint me” speech the next day. Conversely, we once had a new hire who stayed and stayed and stayed because he didn’t know he could go home because nobody told him he could, and he didn’t want to look bad leaving before other people.

    In that same vein: don’t communicate expectations of new hires to existing team members so when new hire asks someone else a question, existing team member cannot answer. Same manager conveys vague “this is what x will be doing” instructions to the existing team. Then tells new hires something slightly different. When new hire comes to existing team member (because manager is always busy or can’t be found), existing member gives contrary information based on earlier vague conversation. Then new hire gets yelled at for doing something different.


    1. ID Kidnapper*

      Yes to all of this. This kind of crap is what goes on where I’m currently working. It’s no wonder turnover is so high.

  51. Anne*

    In my current job I started while my supervisor was on vacation, orientation was on Friday after I started on Monday, and it took two weeks to get a computer. It took me six months to figure out where another department I communicate with regularly are in the building (orientation did not include a tour) and I still have no idea if there are bathrooms on the fourth floor, let alone where they are.

  52. Anon55*

    How about having your new hire be trained by the person who applied and was denied that position? Then as the department manager play dumb (or maybe it wasn’t playing) as to why the new hire’s training was so shoddy and other departments were taking time out of their day to correct the training? Then turn it around on the new hire and blame her for not knowing her training was sub-par at best, because it was her fault for not knowing what she didn’t know. Worst. Job. Ever.

  53. Willow Sunstar*

    The company I currently work for takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks to give someone from outside the company the computer access they need in order to do the job properly. We have a new hire who I have had to lend my computer to for a week every morning, in order to get properly trained on some reports. The bosses were also out of town for a week and had no backup plan for other projects that could be done, such as in Word or Excel. I am frankly surprised that the new hire is still there.

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