don’t say these 5 things to your new hire

Bringing a new person onto your team can be a delicate time: the person is forming impressions that will sometimes be long-lasting, and what happens in their first weeks can shape their perspective and morale for a long time to time.

Here are five things that are kryptonite to say to new team members.

“We’re swamped right now and no one will have time to train you, so keep yourself busy for the next few weeks. Here are some manuals to read.” New employees are usually excited and eager to get to work. Finding out that they’ll just be sitting around for days or weeks will let the wind out of their sails faster than you can say “employee onboarding video.” If you want new hires to continue to be excited and enthusiastic, you have to show that you’re excited to have them there and have put thought into ensuring that they’ll be able to get to work. (Also in this category: “I’m not sure when your computer will get here.”)

“Watch out for the VP — she’s difficult.” Warning a new team member about a difficult coworker may seem like a kindness, but it can poison relationships before they even begin. By all means, give your new colleague useful tips (like “Jane prefers very short emails and doesn’t like too many interruptions”), but avoid negative characterizations and let them form their own impressions.

“We’re all going to lunch. We’ll be back in an hour.” Assign someone on your team to take your new employee out to lunch on her first day – or at least to make sure she knows what lunch options are available. And definitely don’t abandon her while the rest of you head out to eat together.

“We really needed to hire a woman, so I’m glad you’re here.” Don’t make your new team member feel like a token hire, or that you’re seeing her race or gender before anything else about her.

“We have initiation rites for new employees.” Sending the new guy on a supply run to a nonexistent office might be a time-honored welcome ritual, but you might be walking a finer line than you realize with initiation traditions. Think carefully about whether people are likely to feel truly welcomed – or just uncomfortable. Don’t ask people to sing a song (some companies really do this!), share their most embarrassing moment (people do this one too!), or otherwise make themselves vulnerable to a group of strangers they’re not yet comfortable with.

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. Daisy Steiner*

    Don’t describe things based on how they used to be: “That’s by John’s old desk.” “The stationery is where the photocopier used to be.” So confusing!

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      “The security office for your badge is in the new building.” — Uh, I just got here 15 minutes ago, all buildings are equally new to me. Indecently, that company was very tight-fisted with providing any orienting materials like campus maps (Ok, the meeting is in the MR building, which is where exactly?) or instructions on how to use the phone system.

      1. Nother Name*

        I got a manual for a phone model that I never had…

        Also, for the longest time we had some written work instructions that referenced not only a former employee’s name but a location in a building that the company had sold a few years before I started. (These were the same instructions that indicated that the FY ended September 31.)

          1. Natalie*

            It was the thirteenth hour, of the thirteenth day, of the thirteenth month. We were there to discuss the misprinted calendars the school had purchased.

            “Brrr… lousy Smarch weather”.

          1. Nother Name*

            Since it was for the wrong model, it was as useful as if they had given me a toaster manual. I think we had a different telecom provider than it was written for, too… The picture on the cover looked like it would’ve been a nice phone to have.

      2. Wendy*

        “Indecently, that company was very tight-fisted. . . ” This is an awesome autocorrect! (I assume “Incidentally” was meant” but it is indeed indecent to be tight fisted!

    2. A. Thrope*

      Oh yes, everyone at my company does that. “Oh I’m on the 2nd floor, right by Bob Nelson’s old office.” Bob Nelson being a long time employee who retired 10 years before I even started working here.

      1. Jenniy*

        This is a totally weird question, but are you in Virginia? That’s the name of the guy whose wife watched me growing up and it would be totally ironic if it was

    3. Honeybee*

      Constantly referencing people who used to be here but are not anymore is also irritating, especially if this is done with little to no explanation.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yes! Not to mention if they are referenced in a negative way. “Sue was such a lazy biatch…” Um…I have no idea who Sue even is and even if she was the laziest coworker on the planet, why continue to discuss it? She’s not here anymore.

    4. Ruth (UK)*

      The name of the main computer system we used changed about 4 months ago but everyone still refers to it by the old name. So let’s say it was called Alpha System but is now called SystemX but everyone still constantly refers to it as Alpha System.

      We had a new person start about 2 months ago. I made a list of common words/terms she might need to know, and included “Alpha System: this is the old name of the system that is now called SystemX. Still commonly used to refer to SystemX”

      1. Ad Astra*

        I only recently figured out that half of my coworkers were calling one of our vendors by an outdated name. For months I thought I was going crazy.

      2. JessaB*

        This is so useful. I wish every place did this. Especially with weird things like your Alpha System is System X kinds of things.

        1. Ruth (UK)*

          Incidentally, I also then had to include acronyms for the list. Since people often acronym everything. So not only are people still using the old term, but they’ll shorten Alpha System to AS and write something like “px notes on AS” which meant I then needed to include AS in my ‘list of common acronyms’. (this is medical-related admin and we LOVE to turn everything into a string of letters).

          Luckily we don’t have a particularly high turnover because I think if we had lots of new people coming and going, we’d probably need to sort out the fact that our notes sometimes begin to look like we just got the alphabet in the wrong order…

    5. Traveler*

      On that note don’t refer to me as the new “old person who held this job’s name”. I get that thats who I might be to you in your head but saying “Oh yeah Traveler is the new Jane!” makes me feel like I have to live up to another person who I have no knowledge of, versus the new position.

      1. Newbie in Canada*

        This. Reminds me of an old job where I was introduced as “the new Dale”, and because I’m a woman, people often seemed to see the need to also say, “well she’s a lot better lookin’ than Dale!” Ugh. I’m standing right here and can hear you.

    6. Nom d' Pixel*

      I have also been confused when someone is referred to by her maiden name because people still think her as that name even though she was married four years ago.
      “Turn this into Susan Smith?”
      “Who is Susan Smith?”
      “Susan Smith, the admin.”
      “We have three admins in the department and two Susans. Are you talking about Susan Jones?”
      “Oh, yeah.”

  2. Kelly White*

    At one job, on my first day, I had a computer, but no keyboard. I sat around for a week, (a week!) trying to be busy and learn the ropes without being able to access my computer. Worst part, my boss kept forgetting, and would give me stuff to do, that I really couldn’t do without a keyboard.

    It didn’t get better.

    1. WLE*

      Did we work for the same company? At my last job I didn’t have a desk, and it took 2 weeks to get access to my computer. When they first gave it to me, they had me login with the previous employee’s login. All of his personal information popped up. So awkward! Boss also asked me to do things that were difficult to do while sitting on the floor with a laptop and no access to work email.

    2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      I actually wrote to Alison when my boss asked me to travel and do a presentation on my eighth day of work. When he asked me I didn’t even have a computer login or company email, let alone any specific training on the item in question.

      It was a red flag. My boss has continued to be a horrible manager in many different ways and I wish I had seen that for what it was.

    3. Mimmy*

      At one previous job, I was shuffled among several different work stations before finally getting a permanent spot. I don’t remember why or how long it took, but it got rather annoying!

    4. Faith*

      At my last job, it took me a month to get a company laptop. IT “just didn’t have any available”. The best part – the company I was working for was in business of selling laptops.

      1. Sascha*

        Ha! It took a solid month for one of my coworkers to get her computer after we hired her. And then she quit the day the computer arrived…decided the job wasn’t for her and also to move back to her home country for family reasons. She was very nice and tried to have a good attitude, but you can only endure so much sitting around.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow*

          but you can only endure so much sitting around.

          So true. The day I spent waiting for my account to be set up was the longest 8 eons (hours) I ever spent. I brought in my personal laptop for the next week until they could get the stupid account working.

    5. StudentPilot*

      I was working for a department that had “loaned” me out to another department. That contract ended on the Wednesday before Easter. My home department INSISTED that I go to my home department building to start working there on the Thursday. (I could have easily worked at home, or taken a vacation day)

      I had an office and a desk, but no computer and no phone. Man, talk about disorganized!

    6. MaryMary*

      At my first job out of college, my team had an automated testing program that took over an entire computer while it ran. You couldn’t have another program running, or even touch the keyboard or jostle the mouse, without causing the testing program to crash. I’d been there a week or two when the team announced they needed my computer. I spent a couple of days doing nothing but watching the automated tester run on my computer. Well, actually, I read my training manual for an hour or so, and then moved on to writing longhand letters to my friends about how bored I was.

    7. Lanya (AKA Camp Director Kim)*

      I had a computer, but no programs, for my first week at OldJob.
      Needless to say, I didn’t get much done!

    8. Traveler*

      Yes, been there. I’ve gone weeks without essential things like logins, phone numbers, etc. Everyone get forgetting and I regularly reminded them for awhile. Something like 8 or 9 weeks later when it finally became super critical they yelled at me for not having gotten them sooner.

    9. afiendishthingy*

      I didn’t have a desk for my first several days, and no computer until my second week. A year later I still think it’s a good place to work on the balance. So no computer definitely sucks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you should run in the opposite direction.

  3. videogame Princess*

    Are there situations where the “all going out to lunch without you” has occurred? That seems ridiculous.

    1. SL #2*

      I’m sure it’s happened before to new hires because as we all know from this blog, even the most ridiculous of scenarios can happen (duck club, anyone?), but you’re right, it’s so rude that it’s hard to imagine it happening if the coworkers have any sense at all of social niceties…

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep — usually when people are just sort of on auto-pilot and not thinking about the new hire. It’s not deliberate exclusion, just thoughtlessness.

    3. Crazy Dog Lady*

      This happened to me. I was taken out to lunch my first day (which was great!) but then the rest of the week, I was on my own. Everyone else went to lunch together and while I should’ve asked if I could join, I was so nervous about the new job that I just stayed at my desk. I didn’t know these people and I didn’t want to intrude where I wasn’t invited. I like to have solo lunches so I can decompress in the middle of the day, so it ultimately wasn’t that big of a deal, but I did feel like I was in middle school again.

      Certain people on our team try to get new people to sing a song when they start (and some new hires seem to actually like it), and I’m glad this didn’t happen to me. I would’ve been mortified and probably would’ve started looking immediately.

    4. JMegan*

      It happened to me at my previous job. Not exactly as Alison described, but when lunchtime came along on my first day I looked around my office and everybody was gone.

      I was pretty familiar with the area, and used to eating by myself, so it wasn’t a problem from a logistical standpoint, but it certainly did give me a good indication of what the team culture was like. (Spoiler: I was right.)

    5. Ad Astra*

      At one job, everyone left for lunch without me on the first day, but they didn’t all go eat together. The coworkers who usually go home for lunch did that while my boss picked up some fast food and shut himself in his office.

    6. Sadsack*

      It happened to me a couple of jobs ago. I was in a department about 10 admin assistants. One day a coupke of eeeks in, the one who sat nearest to me asked me to watch the phones over lunch time. I said sure without thinking much because one person always did this, so she was just switching turns with me. Anyway, around lunch time I could tell that all the others were leaving in together in groups. Come to find out after lunch, one of the admins got a new puppy and had invited all the other admins to her house over lunch to meet him! I understood why they’d ask me to stay back and cover phones, being that I had no relationship with any of them yet, but it still stung and I was really upset over it. I don’t think I let it show and I never said anything about it.

      1. Sadsack*

        I think I was more upset over their not sharing with me the reason up front, I found out by overhearing many of them talking about it afterwards. If someone had just said, “We’re sorry to do this to you, but Amy has been talking about getting this puppy for a long time and someone needs to cover the phones, do you mind?” it would have been fine.

      2. Shannon*

        I have a similar story. I’d just gotten hired as a Pharmacy Tech and one of the other girls asks me if I mind working a specific shift. I said I didn’t mind. She was really grateful, because she wanted another co-worker to be able to attend her birthday party and since I agreed to pick up that shift, now everyone from work could be at her party.

        I understood, because I was new and didn’t really know any one, but, I would have appreciated some discretion. It also tainted my attitude towards her. Whenever she needed a favor after that, my answer wasn’t “sure,” it was “why?” Even if doing the favor wouldn’t have really been a big deal.

    7. Anon4this*

      I can understand the boss or team having lunch with the new hire on their first day, but after that isn’t lunch really a you’re on your own situation? I’ve been asked by HR to have a scheduled lunch with a new hire (from a different team)…not to discuss my work, or the company, but so that they (the new hire) don’t have to “eat lunch alone during their first week on the job”. I find this premise infantilizing to the new hire, like a rule from middle school. However, maybe I’m wrong and the majority of other people would find this comforting while I’d be outright annoyed by it?

      1. Ordinary World*

        I’m with you, definitely. In part because, hey, I manage to eat meals every day all on my own, and also because by the time lunch rolls around, I probably would like a little time to myself to breathe.

        I am most comfortable with a considerate heads up from someone who says “We all do our own thing for lunch, there are these places nearby, the cafeteria is here, and there’s a park where you can sit and eat a sandwich at this spot.”

        1. SL #2*

          One of the higher-ups on my very small team actually emailed me a bit before my start date with some helpful tips that also included lunch stuff (where to eat, team culture and attitudes about lunch, etc) and it was so useful for navigating that first day.

          1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

            This! I had a future coworker do this for me once and I have now made it part of my standard on boarding!

            It’s weird to show up on the first day and not know if anyone has anything planned, if there is a fridge, if there is anything around etc.

          2. Kas*

            Great idea! Now I am wondering what onboarding notes for some of the dysfunctional workplaces we’ve heard about here would say. The duck club, the lunch-thieving boss….

    8. BRR*

      It happened to me at my last job. I shared a large office with my two teammates and my second day they went to lunch together and didn’t ask me.

    9. Carrie in Scotland*

      Half the admin team go to lunch almost every day together, or they run errands, go to the small supermarket, into town, the pub for lunch on payday etc. I’ve never been invited. They are all quite close, with references to facebook and snapchat happening frequently. I’ve moved 200 miles from where I was before so was really counting this job would be similar to others I’ve had. Another thing is, is that I don’t know the little things e.g. I just discovered an ATM that I didn’t know was there! (no card facilities) There’s a small shop somewhere on campus but I have no idea where it is. I don’t feel close enough to anyone to ask.

      Whereas in my last job, my manager and some other people had lunch together. Sometimes they’d go to the cafeteria across campus and they’d ask me/my officemate if we wanted to come. Even though either of rarely said yes, they still asked.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Have you invited any of them? You might try–and ask about the shop. I know it’s hard to talk to people you don’t know well, but asking about the shop is a good way to break the ice.

    10. MashaKasha*

      Yes, me, Exjob.

      Then a few weeks in, they finally invited me along, after I finally asked, and I found out that during their lunches, they just sat around and gossiped about everyone who wasn’t there.

      Basically, this can happen in a cliquish work environment.

    11. EvilQueenRegina*

      There was a post here somewhere about a new hire who got left behind from a team lunch by accident once and was furious.

    12. Chantal*

      Yup, that happened to me. The worst part was, there were only 3 of us working in the office, and the other two went to lunch. When I got up to join them, they said to me, “You can take your lunch now too, if you want,” and walked off together. I didn’t enjoy working there very much.

    13. Purple Dragon*

      At my current job the day I started (many years ago) the entire department went to lunch leaving me and another new guy (he’d been there about a week) to answer the phones.

      They did apologise and it was someone’s farewell, just really bad timing.

    14. Connie-Lynne*

      Yes. My first week as a technical writer, my manager gave me the dressing-down of a lifetime on Friday. Then on Monday, three new people started.

      They spent the morning laughing in her office while I anxiously waited for some additional direction, then went out to lunch together. They walked right past my office.

      I cried. She was a great technical writer but she was a shitty manager.

    15. Adonday Veeah*

      About two weeks into one job I had, I looked up and my entire floor was deserted. Nobody. Gone. In the middle of the day. Poof. I went looking for signs of life, and found them all in a meeting downstairs. Not knowing what to do I assumed I was not included, and I went back to my work station. As it turns out, every other week, there was a company-wide, all-hands meeting that nobody told me about. They were all wondering why I didn’t show up.

  4. Helka*

    Ugghh, I got the well-meaning warning one, and it really messed me up with the coworker in question. When I was interviewing to join the department, one of the long-timers decided she was going to “take me under her wing” — come to find out, she had pretty terrible relationships with most of the rest of the team, very little sense of boundaries, and an unfortunate tendency to spout things that were either TMI (of multiple varieties) or really uncomfortable attempts to connect with our POC coworkers.

    So when she pulled brand-new me aside to warn me about Miss Jane who had no sense of humor and was really stern… well, first of all, Miss Jane walked past us halfway through the conversation, and I found out later that my would-be mentor’s strained relationship with her was a result of the WBM making some very unfortunate borderline-racial jokes that Miss Jane understandably didn’t find at all funny.

    However, Miss Jane had gotten the impression that I was in with the WBM and agreed with her. That relationship took years to even begin to fix, even after WBM m0ved on.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I got this too. It was a warning that OtherPerson had wanted my job and was going to be resentful, and I was to tell the warn-er if OtherPerson said anything rude to me. She never, ever did. I think all the drama was in the warn-er’s head.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I feel like it’s rare that someone who really knows what they’re doing decides to take someone under their wing. It always seems to be the professional equivalent of an outcast who wants to show a new person the ropes.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, and I think it’s to recruit new people to Team Them because they’ve run off the previous “members.”

      2. EditorWriter*

        One of my early mentors advised me to be wary of anyone who wanted to “befriend” me right away at a new job. Apparently, she’d seen situations where the office “outcast” (and in many cases they’re an outcast for a reason) tries to scoop up the new person so they can have a “fellow” outcast.

        I haven’t seen this scenario in the workplace but I have experienced it in school.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          Had that happen before at my previous job. I got a bad vibe and didn’t bite which I was thankful for later.

        2. blackcat*

          I saw this happening to a young new faculty member in my department, and I gently brought it up with the chair.* New faculty member was/is struggling to find the right place, but needed the advice to not let students see him in the office of cranky sexist professor, nodding along and smiling as asshole professor loudly says things like “Watch out for women and so called minority students. They sometimes expect special treatment.”

          I know you may not agree with asshole professor, but do not accept mentoring from that man! He has alienated his fellow department members and is looking for new blood!

          *Because I’m 1) a grad student and 2) female, I did not want to be the messenger on this one. The chair is great and seemed to appreciate the heads up and handled the situation.

      3. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        This makes me very sad, although in most cases I think you are right. I’m sad because I often would mentor and take new hires under my wings, but I was never an outcast. I’m just someone who enjoys helping people, getting them started off with the right foundation, and offering support as they go. There was a letter earlier this week from a reader who loves to mentor and “watch the babies fly”. That’s my general mode, too – it’s one way I can tangibly contribute to overall value and success.

        1. Kelly L.*

          The key is that with the problematic people we’re talking about, they “take people under their wing” by bombarding them prematurely with all the office gossip, and put their own slant on it. That’s different from actually helping people for real, which it sounds like is what you’re doing.

      4. TT*

        This!! The only person you really have to beware of during those first few days is the person who seems to be too friendly, speaks as if you’ve been besties for years and wants to give you the complete rundown of the office.

        Been there. Thank goodness I had an *actual* best friend who was at the job before I got there. Funny enough, my friend didn’t think I needed to be taken under wing. She didn’t even warn me against the Office Outcast until I mentioned how friendly she was.

    3. Artemesia*

      I learned this on my first job as a teen. The person who aggressively befriends you and clues you in about others is often a loser or a difficult person who has poor relationships with everyone else — and being identified as on her team gets you off to a grim start.

      A success I had as a high school teacher in the 60s came after hearing the name of a kid over and over as a big problem. Came the new semester and who was listed first in my first class — yes Jimmy A. the terror of high school. I decided I would absolutely act as if I had never heard of this kid and would never react to his first issues as ‘there you go again.’ I probably was a little more solicitous of him than other students because I was hyper aware– but I had 160 students so there wasn’t a lot of personal attention. We had an okay semester; he was fine; nothing memorably wonderful or bad. Afterwards I got a letter from his father about how this was the first class in this field he had enjoyed and how grateful the parents were for him to have had a successful semester.

      Poisoning the well is a very bad thing.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Any time anybody cozies up to me when I’m new, I take it as a huge read CAUTION sign and try not to be too friendly with anyone until I see the lay of the land. I’ve been burned like this before. It’s like school–you don’t want to make friends with Crabbe and Goyle and then be stuck with them the whole time.

  5. RachelR*

    My employer makes new hires share their “most embarrassing stories” with THE ENTIRE COMPANY.

    I hate it. I don’t want to hear your embarrassing story and you probably don’t want to share it.

    1. Nother Name*

      I’d be very tempted to just take something from a movie and see if anyone recognized it. (I’m thinking Gloria’s “tragic story” from Auntie Mame would work nicely.)

      1. JMegan*

        Yes, and make it the absolute most embarrassing moment possible – hopefully it would make the requestors uncomfortable enough that they would never ask again. Emilio Estevez’ story from The Breakfast Club would be a good one too.

      2. LBK*

        Reminds me of The Office when Michael makes everyone tell a story about when someone they know died and Ryan tells the story of The Lion King.

      3. Nother Name*

        I kissed a cute boy and a few years later realized that he was my twin brother. We had been separated at a young age, and he was raised on Tattooin. It did make it easier for me when I wanted to date his friend, but boy was I mortified!

      4. Miles*

        Hah! I suppose depending on the wording of the request; any story can be your “most embarrassing moment” story by virtue of the fact that you are the one telling it. That’s even if it didn’t strictly happen to you.

      5. Nom d' Pixel*

        And she stepped on the ball!
        I only recently saw that movie for the first time, and I don’t know what took me so long. It is great.

    2. BadPlanning*

      “I got this new job and I was super duper excited and then on the first day, they made me tell my most embarrassing story to the whole company.”

    3. Artemesia*

      I remember a ‘do you remember your most embarrassing moment’ thing in training one time. I said ‘yes.’ When they asked me to share it, I said ‘It was embarrassing, I am not going to be embarrassed twice for it.’ Sheesh. It is embarrassing for a reason.

    4. Elle the new Fed*

      My organization did this too! Except only on my team of 50 or so people. Some new hires since have had funny stories since but most are just weird. Why is this a thing?

    5. anonanonanon*

      Mentoring can be great, but not everyone wants it or even deals well with it. I have a coworker who is super nice, but he over-mentors to the point that it’s showing people how to do things his way instead of the best way, and he doesn’t pick-up on people who find his over

    6. AcidMeFlux*

      Whenever I hear someone forced to admit to something embarassing, I try to respond with Thelma Ritter’s reaction (in “All About Eve”) to Eve’s sad backstory, that is, “Jeez. Everythin’ but the bloodhounds nippin’ at her rear end.”

    1. videogame Princess*

      Or not, maybe people have different opinions? I liked the old ones but that might just be me.

      1. videogame Princess*

        I think that my computer was just being problematic–there are always different things happening (what happens when you use Linux!). Today when I refreshed the page I got some very odd looking headlines for your stories, and I thought you’d swapped them up.

        1. Ama*

          That happened to me yesterday for a few minutes — I came to the page for my morning coffee break and the post headers were all in a very strange font. I came back in the afternoon and everything looked normal. I have a standard Windows PC so probably not a Linux issue.

  6. Steamroller*

    “Tell us your most embarrassing moment!”

    “Okay! One time, I was starting a brand new job. I was so excited to start the work, and I got up early on the first morning to make sure I looked really nice and professional. I had a great breakfast, listened to some music to get pumped up, and then when I walked in, I was asked to share my most embarrassing moment with the whole company! Boy, was my face red!”

  7. Mimmy*

    Big ditto to #1!! This happened to me at a previous job. I don’t think they claimed to be swamped, but I do remember being left for about 2 weeks to just read manuals, watch videos and visit places with just a couple of 1-on-1’s with my supervisor or an office manager. Also, I was supposed to meet with the full-time person who was doing a similar job, but she was out sick on my first day, and made only minimal effort in explaining things to me when we did catch up.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I am surprised how often this seems to happen! I started a new job, and on my first day, my new boss told me she was going on vacation for two weeks and to just follow people around. We were so swamped that no one wanted me to shadow them or took the time to show me anything and it was a highly technical job. And it was full of “mean girls” who were angry that I was coming in at a higher level than they were (I had more experience in the industry). Still the worst job I’ve ever had (I hate you, Sports Illustrated!).

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I have a former colleague who is an awesome person and also said SI sucked to work for. Glad you and she are both out!

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Which is why I started a user manual for new employees, giving them useful information. As soon as I figured something out that seemed useful (where the toilets were, how to set up your email, the links for the payroll system), I’d document it, so that the next person wouldn’t have the same experience that I had. And I’d give it to them on the first day, and ask them to please update and comment on it, so it would be better for the people following them.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, something similar happened to me.

      I was supposed to train with the outgoing employee for two weeks. I received about two hours of training, and then they went home and never came back! (There’s some complicated story here, but the short version is that their situation suddenly changed and were unable to complete their last two weeks. Since it was unexpected, they hadn’t bothered with documentation, SOPs, or anything.) No one else really understood the position or could give me much guidance. I spent weeks poring over the messy, incomplete files left behind and just tried to figure it out. Talk about a rough start!

        1. Nother Name*

          I’m guessing the name of her organization is intended to convey some sort of deep irony. Please?

          My favorite song in this case would be “Take this Job and Shove It.” Or the most work/mixed company-inappropriate song I could think of. I have a good memory for lyrics, and I’m a very, very bad singer, so I hope they’d enjoy that.

          1. Steamroller*

            There are a few choice numbers from “Hamilton” I would be glad to sing. “I am Hercules Mulligan/I need no introduction/when you knock me down/I get the f@!% back up again!”

      1. Liz*

        These remind me of my freshman orientation classes.

        The weekend before school started, every was assigned different teams that were were with for the rest of the semester. There’s always lots of summer camp-ish things, but my least favorite was the dance. Every year each group is assigned a song that they have to choreograph and then perform in front of the entire student body (granted, its only 500 students, but still). Usually a mix of new pop, old pop, and other random songs. We had Under the Sea

        As an 18 year old who just moved 10 hours away from home, knew literally no one prior to the move, and did not handle public performances well, I absolutely hated it.

        The performances were optional to all upperclassmen, and I refused to go to any of them the rest of my time there as my personal protest against the whole thing.

      2. LBK*

        (For anyone else reading in the office, heads up that there’s a pic at the top of the second link that’s kinda NSFW – involves visible man butts.)

      3. BritCred*

        If these employers tell me this stuff in advance then they are doing me a bad favour. One to say “no thanks” to that environment. I’m not a fan of “enforced fun” and “bonding exercises”. I would just about stomach a “meet everyone at once and if you want to share a personal hobby” type thing (and also optional as whether you share a non work thing or just stick to career type history comments) but beyond that?

        “Hi, I’m BritCred and I’m into medieval reenactment and martial arts and look forward to working with you all” is so less disturbing than singing a song, dancing/yoga moves and forced bonding tasks. I can see it does give other coworkers a way to come talk to you about non work stuff (at suitable times) and know generally the type of person you are a touch quicker etc rather than awkward silence of not knowing each other at all.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I know some folk songs that just might get this practice changed on the spot.

      Starting with “The Scotsman,” going into “Roll Your Leg Over” and right on up to “The Ball of Ballynoor” (the “cleanest” verse of this song (that I know of) is “Four and twenty virgins/Came down from Inverness/And when the ball was over/There were four and twenty less” – and I won’t post the chorus here).

      Or there’s always “My God How the Money Rolls In.”

      Hmmm…wonder if I could make a living travelling around showing companies exactly WHY this is not a good idea…

      Pretty sure I could give the majority of their Human Resources and Legal departments the vapors on the spot. Would be a pretty interesting resume update, too…”Assisted multiple companies in revising their new hire practices through song and dance…”

      1. Nother Name*

        How about some of the inappropriate song parodies from childhood? All the verses of “99 Bottles of Beer”? My goal would either to offend or annoy.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          How about a “stretch goal” to both offend AND annoy? This could be fun…

          Make all of them get up and do the Macarena, because that’s your very favorite song ever? Launch into “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”?

            1. Lily in NYC*

              Nooooooooooooooo! But ha! That song makes me stabby. I’m gonna do a mashup of William Shatner’s greatest hits.

              1. Nother Name*

                “Pennsylvania 6-5000!” But don’t hum the instrumental part. Just wait the correct number of beats, and shout out the words.

          1. Nother Name*

            Only if it’s the extended version.

            “Carmina Burana,” anyone? Get the whole group to join in! It’s getting near the holidays, and I think we all need to do “Carol of the Bells.” Or “Holy Night.” (For the record, I think this is a beautiful song, but it’s very challenging, and I’ve heard way more bad versions than good ones.)

            I’d go with some of Adam Ant’s lesser-known hits, from before Ant Music.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” from “Gypsy”? “Always True to You (In My Fashion)” from “Kiss Me, Kate”? “Lovely Ladies” or “Master of the House” from “Les Miserables”?

              1. Nother Name*

                “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do”?

                “Puff the Magic Dragon”?

                How about something from “The Producers”?

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  “If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It,” or “Along Came Bialy,” or of course, the classic “Springtime for Hitler.”

                  Or maybe a little “Take Back Your Mink” from “Guys and Dolls.”

      2. TT*

        I played women’s rugby in college, I’ve got a nice little playlist of songs that would be inappropriate.

      3. pony tailed wonder*

        A favorite movie of mine, Austenland, with Kerri Russell, has a funny scene where they are all modern day people pretending to live in Jane Austen’s time and Kerri Russell’s character is told to entertain everyone with a song played on the piano. So she plays the rap/pop song that starts out with the lyrics “It’s getting hot in here, let’s take off all our clothes.”. Jmo, the whole movie is great but that scene is the frosting on the cake.

    2. WLE*

      At my last job, we didn’t have to sing, but we did have to “scream as loud as we could” during orientation. As someone who is fairly quiet and reserved, this was painful.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We had a cheer at NonProfit job for company meetings. It was the most ungodly thing ever. I remember my very first one–the CEO was all, “Let’s do the company cheer!” and everyone just went BLLLAAAAAAAAAA and I was horrified! Scared the daylights out of me.

        1. Nother Name*

          Who ARE these people?

          I can only assume this is what happens to the people who were really into school assemblies/school spirit stuff in high school.

    3. Wolfman's Brother*

      Whole Foods has been known to do that to new employees. I’m not sure if it is for cashiers and stockers, but folks who are working in their business offices get to.

  8. Solidus Pilcrow*

    Here’s your desk – it’s half-full of junk from the previous 4 (or more) employees and has been used a collection point for all the discarded office equipment. Oh, and someone spilled a bottle of regular coke in the drawer, so you’ll need to clean that up.

    1. Windchime*

      This is why I always check out the desk before a new employee comes. I wipe it down with disinfectant wipes and make sure they at least have pencils, pens, sticky notes, paper, etc. Someone else takes care of making sure they have a computer.

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        When I started my new job this year I nearly wept (not hyperbole – I got a bit choked up) that the desk was clean and someone had stocked the drawer with basic office supplies. I never had that before. Previously, the best I hoped for was an empty desk.

        1. Corporate Cynic*

          I had no office supplies for the first 3 days (my manager was a chronically stressed person who always looked too frazzled to ask – this issue continued to persist), and had to use my own pen and notebook from home. On the upside, I was issued a laptop on Day 1 but was told a couple of times during my first week that I should “feel lucky” about that.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I did that too, at Exjob. I did all the stapler, tape, etc. and cleaned the desk and made sure they had a chair that wouldn’t flip over and kill them. (People always put broken chairs at vacant desks.)

    2. Ad Astra*

      I’ve never started a job with an empty desk. Why can’t managers spend 30 minutes going through some drawers before a new hire comes?

    3. Clean desks!*

      Yes! Having to clean your own desk on your first day is the worst. I work in HR now and I send people meeting requests via email for a week or so before their new hires start to “clean work space for new person”. Then I physically check the desk a day or two before to make sure they’ve cleaned it, there is a stapler, mouse pad, etc.

      I had to clean my predecessor’s desk and files (granted it was a termination so cleaning wasn’t a priority) and it took me weeks to go through everything – literally.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Not only does it take forever, but it’s often hard or even impossible for a new hire to determine what files are worth keeping and what can be tossed.

        1. Clean desks!*

          Ha! I would find three or four separate manila folders – each with different labels – all containing the same single document:

          Folder #1 labeled: Contract A with the contract
          Folder #2 labeled: Company A with the same contract
          Folder #3 labeled Project A with the same contract – but not signed

          It was maddening. And a pile of documents to be shredded that was literally 2 – 2.5 feet high. I shredded every day for an hour (or until the shredder overheated) and it took me 2 or 3 weeks to finish. There were documents in the pile over a year old. (I didn’t want to hire a shredding company because I also wanted to make sure everything in the pile should really be destroyed.)

        2. Ife*

          I have five or six really old looking manuals in my desk drawer that reference things I’ve never heard of. After nearly a year, I’m 95% sure they’re irrelevant, but WHAT IF…

      2. WLE*

        I hope the new hires appreciate this at your company because this is NOT the norm ;) That’s refreshing.

        1. Clean desks!*

          To be honest, I started doing it because if I didn’t some departments would expect me or the admin assistants to do it – and that’s ridiculous to me. I am not cleaning up other people’s messes! Plus, it’s such an easy thing to do – and it’s good for the supervisors to go through and purge/shred/ship to storage outdated files. Some departments buy flowers for their new hires (guys and girls!). We also make sure they have company swag – tote bag, coffee cup – waiting for them. I don’t think it was always that way, but I’ve been trying to make little improvements when I can.

    4. GigglyPuff*

      As something for me to do, on my first day I was given a twenty year old vacuum to clean my office. Wasn’t really dirty, my manager apparently just didn’t want to overwhelm me on my first few days. So I got a vacuum and some windex to clean my windows.

    5. GigglyPuff*

      I really want to see an Ask the Audience post/question about first day at new jobs (if there isn’t one already)

    6. BRR*

      YES! Make sure they have a nice place to arrive to. I had a colleague who started at a job with a folding table and their chair was two inches from the person behind them. Welcome aboard, glad to have you here.

    7. AnonEMoose*

      A coworker of mine once moved to a new cubicle. Cubicles at my company have a cupboard at one end; it’s got a shelf and couple of file drawers in it, and a space to one side you can use to hang up a coat. When she opened the cupboard door, she discovered mold. A LOT of mold. Because someone had left a bowl of soup sitting in there, for who knows how long. And she ended up cleaning it up herself.

    8. Tilly W*

      This! I will never take having a clean desk on your first day for granted. On my first day at a non-profit hospital, I walked into my “office” (really a closet they had put a desk in) and discovered that due to a leak in the roof there was a system of tarps, ladders, garbage cans etc. set up within the 5×5 space. Furthermore, the lady who occupied the desk before me had been unexpectedly walked out four months earlier and no one had made the slightest attempt to clean or anything. I discovered some very personal items: a stash of cash, glasses, pictures, prescriptions, a diary etc. I had already figured out that HR was snakes on day one so I boxed it up and found the poor lady on LinkedIn to send it to her. She was so grateful to have her stuff back. What kind of place doesn’t box up your stuff?! (so many red flags!)

      Furthermore, both of my supervisors were out on maternity leave when I started in a NON-clinical role but they made me go through all the clinical orientation training for a week because they didn’t know what else to do with me. I almost passed out several times. The place was supposed to be a religious, non-profit and I joined because I believed in their mission (similar to the post earlier today), but I bailed after seven months. It was terrible – something is to be said about non-profits attracting bullies.

  9. Hotstreak*

    #1 – This is super common in my industry! New hires sit in front of a computer for compliance training and typically don’t take their eyes off the screen for 2-3 weeks. It’s really hard for our customer facing employees (who tend to be people-people), since there’s virtually no personal interaction during that time.

    1. Mike C.*

      I love it when the ethics/compliance training is really, really specific and you can go through the news to find out that some higher up really screwed up and part of the settlement was “everyone will be training on this obscure thing”.

  10. Sandy*

    Ugh. I feel like there is such a fine line between number two and number five.

    We have an absolutely horrible boss at my office, and you never know, day by day or hour by hour, what’s going to set her off. We got a new crop of employees this summer, and not doing number two basically turns into number five: “there, there, dry your tears. We all know she’s a screamer, but we didn’t want to tell you right away”.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Right, I was just thinking that one was not so much “don’t gossip about Jane” but “you are signaling to the new employee that you tolerate and coddle insane bosses”.

    2. Jennifer*

      I wish I’d been warned about one person before I switched jobs. She seemed perfectly lovely when I wasn’t under her authority, I’ll put it that way. A heads-up would have been good, though, about so many things.

  11. Chickaletta*

    #1 Happened to me when I started my job three months ago. No training, my boss (the owner) just said “here’s your laptop and by the way I’m about to go on vacation out of the country for three weeks so I guess you’ll just have to do on your own for now”. Right before he left, my laptop broke and all the stuff I had worked on during my first few days were lost. I had to use my personal laptop for several weeks.

    Here’s the fun part: two days ago, he let me go without warning, citing that the company didn’t have the money for my job position after all. I asked if he was sure it had nothing to do with my job performance and he said no, but that he thought I had GOT OFF TO A SLOW START. No kidding, moron.

    1. Anlyn*

      You are better off. I hope that doesn’t come across sounding like a platitude, but you really are. That guy is a jerk. Good luck and I hope you find something soon.

  12. Lauren*

    AAM – Can you do a series of this?

    5 things not to say to women in a review
    5 things not to say to anyone in a review

  13. M*

    I SO agree with the last item. My last employer made all new employees go on a long “scavenger hunt” that involved finding the answers to trivia questions about people in each department. It was so very bad, and I should have run screaming because the job was a nighmare.

    1. Mike C.*

      In the old days this used to happen to new mechanics. They’d be asked to get something that sounded real from a tool room – say a “roll of flight line*” or something similar. What’s really fun about this is that there are 1-2 tool rooms per area and several through out such a huge building (~ 100 acres) – so it’s going to take a while to get there and back.

      When the folks in the tool room were feeling especially mean, they would respond with, “we just ran out, but if you go to the one next door…” and this would keep going. Yeah, I know it’s mean and I’ve never done it myself, but it’s rather amusing to think about.

      *The Flight line is the area where nearly completed planes are parked outside of the factory so that things like engine runs and last minute items can be completed.

      1. Anlyn*

        My father worked in transit as a civilian on a military air base. So someone telling me to find a roll of flight line would get a blank stare and a “whuh”? :)

      2. Solidus Pilcrow*

        My uncle (a professional auto mechanic) liked to tell the newbies to go the parts store and pick up muffler bearings and blinker fluid (and make sure you get the 32 oz size, not the small 12 oz size!).

      3. HKM*

        A family friend is a chemistry teacher, and when she gets a new class she susses out which the troublemaker will be and sends them to another lab to fetch “a lit bunsen”.
        I love creative ways to take little toerags down a notch or two.

      4. Kelly L.*

        Mop the freezer!

        And then once I had a supervisor tell me for real to mop the freezer. I laughed, thinking it was a joke, and he was not pleased.

    2. xarcady*

      At one company, someone started sending new people around looking for a left-handed ruler.

      Which does exist. And which was sitting in my desk drawer.

      Most of the newbies thought it was a joke. But a few made it to my office and were stunned to find out that left-handed rulers are a real thing.

      It was a small company, and asking everyone for a left-handed ruler made for a nice ice-breaker for most of the new people.

  14. xarcady*

    When I started my current retail job, I “trained” for two days at a computer with videos. Then they had no shifts for me for nearly two weeks. My first day, I couldn’t even remember how to use the cash register. But at least they assigned someone for me to shadow. On the other hand, she was mentally checked out from the job (she quit three weeks later) and not all the information she gave me was accurate.

    But they are hiring seasonal people right now. I showed up for a closing shift last week, and surprise! there’s a brand new hire that I know nothing about. No manager to be found anywhere. So I had her shadow me–no one had taken her around the store or the department–she didn’t know where the rest rooms or break room were. And I’ve been a teacher, so I know sort of how to train people. But if she’d gotten stuck with certain of my co-workers, she would have been left by herself to sink or swim. I do think my manager (not the same one who hired me) should have handled her first day better.

    1. BRR*

      oh retail. When my husband did a stint at a clothing store, his first day the training computer wouldn’t work. He got paid for four hours to sit around.

    2. Steamroller*

      I got one day of training, which didn’t include using the register, at my last retail job. Then I was expected to man the floor while the one other employee was in the kitchen area (it was an artisanal food shop with housemade stuff). She was SO angry that she had to help me learn. I literally had no idea what code products were listed under and half the barcodes wouldn’t scan, so you’d have to type in some ridiculous code to find them. Luckily she left two weeks later, but Jesus, lady, what did you expect?

    3. MaryMary*

      Once I started a retail job the day after Thanksgiving. The store manager took one look at the newbie who showed up on her busiest day of the year, and declared I would spend the day bagging for the cashiers. It worked out well. I spent the next day “processing shoes,” which involves taking all the tissue paper and plastic out of them, lacing the running shoes (that is murder on your nails and cuticles), and putting them back in the shoebox. I think it was my third day of work before I got a store tour or a chance to meet most of my coworkers.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      That reminds me. My first day at the cafe in CA, someone handed me a sandwich and an order slip and said, “Here, take this out!” I had to stand in the middle of the room and yell the person’s name and I didn’t even know what the sandwich WAS yet. It was so embarrassing. Luckily, the customer knew what their order was supposed to look like!

  15. HRish Dude*

    I worked for five years in a location without ever having a desk chair (I used a folding chair for 5 years) after being told on the first day that it was “on order”.

  16. Anonymous Educator*

    I had a variation of #1 in my first non-teaching job, but it wasn’t that they didn’t have time to train me—no one there knew how to do my job (my predecessor had long since left, too), and the existing documentation was at least five years out of date. Basically, it was “No one knows how to do your job, so I hope you can figure it out.”

    #2 I’ve also gotten a lot. It’s definitely well-intentioned, but it’s also practically useless. “Watch out for…?” What exactly does that mean? How can I “watch out”? If I have to interact with this person, it’s not like I can avoid her or him. And, hey, I may be able to handle that person just fine, even though you can’t. The personality warnings are not helpful at all (as Alison mentions, specific practical advice is always good, though).

    #3 I had the reverse of this once. The company was well meaning and chock-full of extroverts, so they planned every single lunch my first week (paid for by the company) to socialize out with my co-workers. I found it exhausting, and I didn’t feel more comfortable with them or feel I’d gotten to know them better. It just felt awkward and overly scheduled. I did eventually get to know and love my co-workers, but not through lunches, and I cherished the alone time I did get during lunch.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        It actually wasn’t too bad eventually. Even though they didn’t equip me with any tools to learn the job, I did manage to pick it up after a couple of months. Those first two months were pretty painful, though!

  17. AP*

    I kinda feel like I won misery poker here. My previous job (about 20-person company) did almost all these things! I was told by multiple people that they were really glad to have another “girl” on the team so the one female AE wouldn’t feel lonely. One coworker pranked me every day for the first week, after he told me that he wouldn’t take time to remember my name until I was there for 3 months, since they have so many people in the role. I was also told horror stories about how one of the senior people is just really rude to every woman who worked there, and it would be best if I just ignored him as best I could.

    At least they didn’t go to lunch without me, I guess.

    1. SL #2*

      Sort of a happy ending: at my old job, the guy who told me he wouldn’t try to remember my name because I was a short-term employee became one of my closest friends there. We still talk, even though I’ve left that job.

  18. Anne S*

    I’m definitely trying to figure out how to avoid #2 with my new hire who starts next week! A number of people in the other half of the department are kind, helpful, and just not very good at what we do, so I’m dreading the moment one of them ‘helpfully’ offers to show my new hire something. Thoughts on how to say ‘please don’t take their work as an example’ in a delicate way?

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      Maybe something like this? : “We’ve had a few changes to procedures lately that everyone’s still getting used to. Please ask me for the correct procedure if you’re given something new to do.”

      Or something like this? : “I’d like to double-check your first few TPS reports just to make sure they’re filled out right.”

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        As a follow-on to double-checking, you can mention “sometimes you’ll see 17 as the number of pieces of flair; we really want at least 24 pieces of flair entered here.” The basic idea is to tell them the right way to do it and to recognize when it’s done wrong.

  19. Rebecca*

    Here is something not to do to a new hire: do not assign one of your poorest performers to train the new person, then complain that the new hire isn’t “doing what she’s supposed to do” and “doesn’t know what she’s doing”. Really? My pointy haired boss actually thought this was a stellar idea and is now perplexed over the outcome. What did you think would happen???

  20. Amber Rose*

    I have been known to joke to nervous newbies that there is an initiation that involves a lake of fire, the Gates of Judgement and a secret handshake (I’m aware my sense of humour is lame). But there are seriously places that have real initiations?

    This knowledge makes me sad.

  21. zlionsfan*

    “We’re swamped right now and no one will have time to train you, so keep yourself busy for the next few weeks. Here are some manuals to read.” That is exactly what I was told at my first job – my work-twin and I (started on the same day) joined a team that was understaffed, but had also developed some really inefficient processes … and we started in December, so basically as soon as November reporting wrapped up, it was end-of-year time. I think they started giving us actual tasks in February. Sadly, this was pre-internet, so options to keep ourselves occupied were limited.

    Things did work out in the end – I made a lot of good friends and eventually worked my way into a better position, picking up skills that led to the (much better) job I have now at a completely different company – but at the time, it sure didn’t seem like they would …

    1. Jennifer*

      That happened to me too after my job transfer–your team is too busy working on this giant list, and your boss is going on vacation, so here’s a bit of training on how to type things, and then after that…I surfed the web a lot for the first month. And then I went on vacation while my boss was on vacation since I did have the time saved and I wasn’t going to be able to do jack shit without training anyway.

      Honestly, there were a lot of things I could critique at how I got trained here.

  22. AnonPi*

    When I started here I was given a desk in a doorway so everyone could ram the door into the back of my chair coming and going every freaking time. On top of that they really didn’t have anything for me to do for about a month (this was after 2 weeks of training). Got a lot of “well, I can do it quicker than it would take me to teach you how to do it”. I read a lot of manuals and did a lot of word circle puzzles that month…

    Ironically now that I think about it, I’m in the same boat now that I’m leaving. “You wont’ be here in a few wks/month, so don’t bother doing that.” “Oh I’ll take over that since I’m sure you’re busy.” Ugh. Last thing I want to do is be sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to finish out my time here.

  23. Macedon*

    I got a version of the gender card this job round — it’s very rare to find a woman in my role in my industry, so everyone was liberal with the congratulatory back pats for the miracle of my absent Y chromosome. Kinda weird.

  24. Soupspoon McGee*

    Ooooh boy. On my first day, I was shown my new office. Furniture was stacked in a corner, and they didn’t know where the computer was. They had known I was coming for two months. I ended up sitting in the CEO’s office, trying to get my login credentials set up. When they set up my workspace, my boss told me to get anything I needed from another office. Everyone was mad at me because apparently there had been a just been reorganization, and there was a lot of bitterness and territoriality about whose stuff was whose.

    A few weeks later, on two separate evenings, two different senior VPs came to my office to tell me there was going to be another reorg, but they didn’t yet know where I’d report. One said my current boss was incompetent.

    When I met the new boss, he blurted out, incredulously, “Why did you want to come here??” He ended up being the best boss I ever had, incidentally–but the organization overall was horribly disorganized, with poor communication and ineffective leadership. When he retired and I was shuffled three more times, I appreciated how much he’d protected me from the dysfunction. I was too naive to see those early flags for what they were.

  25. Nervous Accountant*

    Day 1 at assignment through recruiter-the owner of the company was very warm and welcoming. The two people I’d work with (receptionist and senior accountant) were very talkative and friendly. They laughed at my jokes and engaged in conversation. The senior accountant showed me around. 4 weeks later, the senior accountant accused me of rolling my eyes at her, said I had an attitude and the owner also wanted me to cheat on my timesheet so she’d avoid having to pay me overtime–“you’ll be happy to take any $$ right?!”.

    Day 1 at a new job (let’s call it company #2). My manager showed me around, introduced me to everyone, had made sure that my phone line and email was already set up. I listened in on a few calls and made my first call that evening. Part of a mass layoff a few months later.

    Day 1 at another new job (which was actually at company #2, but it had been restructured). My boss was out sick or on vacation. For most of the day I didn’t do anything. IT was having issues issuing me a log in and ID and computer and phone. I didn’t get my permanent desk until close to the end of the day and I was assigned work. I got a little bit of training on it, and so far, everything I’ve learned has been on the job. Afterwards, I saw that all new hires were shown around and got formal training on software and processes. I’ve been here for almost a year now (and happy).

  26. Solidus Pilcrow*

    “I’m glad your name’s not ‘Kathy’!” — There were at least 4 current employees (and a couple former employees) in the department or related departments named Kathy, Kathleen, and Catherine.

    Not really a *bad* thing to say to a new hire, but kind of odd.

    1. Jennifer*

      Speaking as a Jennifer, this is…something we get a lot. We have three of them at my volunteer job alone.

      I also worked with a bunch of Chris’s, multiple times.

      And at one point everyone in my team but me had names that rhymed with each other.

  27. Lizzy May*

    I’m currently on day three of a new job and the first thing I was told was “Don’t expect to be set up on the systems for about a month.” I really like my coworkers and I think the work I’ll be doing is right up my alley, but a month before I can do anything but file and job shadow is very discouraging. I don’t even get company emails.

    1. Clean desks!*

      A co-worker at one of my former jobs gave me the advice of “CYA” (cover your a**) on my first day. She was 1,000% right.

  28. Lia*

    I had an internship where the director who had hired me forgot I was coming, so there was a scramble to assign me to a mentor. They had interns every semester, so I’m not sure why she blanked. I got to sit in an interview room (aka the fishbowl) for the first week, reading manuals and learning the (painfully simple) software they used.

    My current job was ready for me, but the onboarding was a bit rough because of our decentralized data access system. It took me close to 9 months to get access to all of the databases I need — I had to use a co-worker’s login for most of that, until I finally got my own access.

  29. EvilQueenRegina*

    Said to my former coworker: “I hope you last longer than the last one. What was it, two days?”

    That guy lasted 9 months in the job. It’s the record. I call it the Defence Against the Dark Arts job.

  30. SanguineAspect*

    #1 has been common in my last couple of companies. When you’re in consulting, you’re just expected to take care of yourself, for better or for worse. Individual Contributor Limbo.

    The one I really hate is “Hey! You came back!” — at my last job, I got this on Day #2 and fairly regularly throughout my first month. The whole “this place is so terrible/stressful that we’re SO HAPPY you haven’t just jumped ship without warning” was a really bad vibe for me to start off on (I left after 9 months, my shortest stint ever at a job, because it really WAS that bad).

    1. The Other Alice*

      I got that while working as a care assistant. In hindsight they were right: I really shouldn’t have gone back.

      1. MommaTRex*

        Not well. But the song is an original composition that starts out sounding like Oscar Meyer weiner song. And we wear cute tiaras.

    1. A Non*

      Litmus test: does it kill everything dead if the new employee reacts with a blank stare? If the employees sing because they find it fun, bad reactions get glossed over, and the office as a whole is entertained, sounds good to me. If they’re expecting a particular kind of reaction from the new hire (enthusiasm or thanks or what have you), probably not good – demanding displays of emotion from a new hire (or anyone, really) is bad form.

      At least the new hire knows what kind of an office culture they’re getting into! I would have been highly amused by something like that.

  31. Samantha*

    At two jobs I’ve had people train me but then not give me any work to do. What’s the point in that? So I basically sat there doing nothing. I don’t get people. Why hire someone if there is no work for them to do?

  32. Lady in Pink*

    Test the equipment before the new hire’s first day. Don’t issue your new hire an old computer that overheats and fills the office with smoke and a funny smell! This happened to me on the first day of an internship when I was in college.

  33. new woman hire*

    Ah! I just started a new job and have been debating whether I should ask an AAM question about it, and here’s a post that seems related enough to ask. Alison, let me know if you’d rather receive this as an official question? Though I’d be just as happy to hear from the commentariat, I think.

    I had a weird experience as one of very few women at a tech company, going to lunch with the group on the first day (so they did that much right!). Two of the men started telling each other stories about how they knew their wife was “the One” when she happened to have knowledge of certain tech things they were also interested in. That was…fine enough, I guess, but a little unsettling, and as the only person out of twelve who was in fact a woman who knew things about tech, felt a little strange. It got more uncomfortable as they punctuated these moments with “and then I thought, KA-CHING!”

    I don’t want to poison the well. At the same time, other people at the company have told me that they’d like more feedback on how to make the team more woman-friendly. Is this worth mentioning, or should I wait to see a pattern of behavior? If it’s worth bringing up, how might I go about it? In the moment I was too uncomfortable and too stunned to figure out exactly what to say, and I would’ve given anything for a snappy script that would’ve at least shut the conversation down. I wanted to be careful not to make them feel guilty about it, though – in some senses, it’s completely innocuous, just…for me, at least, and I assume for other women, it’s one more reminder that women in tech are not seen as normal, and are sexualized in uncomfortable ways.

    Thoughts? Help? Other than that, the environment at my new company has been wonderful, and I’m really enjoying it!

    1. Jennifer*

      This sounds like hearing my college ex mention the crush he had on a girl who could actually program. (She wasn’t interested back.)

      I probably wouldn’t say anything if it was me, maybe that’s just a one time thing, and maybe they’re trying to do the equivalent of “hey, another programmer, one of us!” with you. Hopefully it’s not a come-on if they’re already married, one hopes.

    2. A Non*

      Yeah, being reminded that people see women in tech as potential love interests first and potential coworkers second is bothersome. I’d be uncomfortable with that conversation too, but in that situation I’d also let it pass unless it rises to “wow, that’s really inappropriate” levels.

      For the people asking for feedback about making the environment more woman-friendly, I’d ask them to give you more time to get to know the office. Get through the settling-in period, and then if conversations where women in tech = wife material turns out to be a common theme, mention it then.

      Hope everything else continues to be awesome for you!

    3. Wanna-Alp*

      I can’t think of any literature to point you to offhand, but you might want to look up microaggressions on the Geek Feminism wiki. There might be some pointers there for things to spot, how to deal with them, and ways to try and transform the culture for the better.

      I agree with the “wait a while” advice though. A lot of this sort of stuff isn’t one-off incidents, but part of a general pattern, and it does take a while to see the pattern(s). Also if you’ve been there a while, they can’t dismiss your comments from you just being a newcomer. Kudos to them for asking for feedback on how to make the team more woman-friendly, though.

  34. fred*

    At a previous job, I had to bring my own laptop. Complete with illegal software. I didn’t have a company e-mail address or access to the network or anything.

    This wasn’t some small company. They are the 2nd largest in their field, in the world. You would expect better

  35. Buttonhole*

    When I joined my former employer, neither my laptop nor my phone line was ready. I had to wait more than a week. Log-ins didn’t work. Then I sat there doing nothing for a month, and the only training I got was the onboarding video and a manual, which didn’t make sense. By the time the project they hired me started, I was already unsure about the move and demotivated. Should have left immediately. How a new starter is treated in the first month is a good harbinger of things to come, just as the first 90 days in a new job determines how you will fare. It works both ways.

  36. Jill*

    First week at current job: Caucasian me was introduced to an African American board member. Stuck out my hand while Boss introduced us and she pointedly ignored it. Boss tried to gloss over it by saying, “Yes and we’ll be filling the other vacant position within the month.” Board member look me up, looks me down, turns to Boss and says, “And make sure it’s a Black person. (Pause) Please!!”

    After Board Member walked away, Boss further tries to gloss it over by explaining, “She’s diabetic. It affects her mood.” Um…I’m also diabetic. It can make you crabby, yes. But racist? Sexist? No. One of the zillions of red flags that I should’ve heeded….

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