my new hire quit after his first day

A reader writes:

I am a fairly new manager and have the opportunity to build out my team, which is a step in my career that I’m really excited about. I currently manage one person and just went through the hiring process for another. This was my first time hiring at this company and we don’t have HR, so I was mostly left to figure out the process on my own. I did my due diligence and found a great candidate who checked all of the boxes, was universally liked by our team, and had great references.

He accepted our offer, put in notice with his previous company, and set a start date for this week. But from the moment he arrived on day one, I felt something was off. I planned a pretty typical first day (tech set-up, office tour, welcome lunch, team meeting, and time to review onboarding documents), but he was quiet, cold, and unengaged. I chalked it up to first-day nerves/weirdness. However, the next morning I got an email with his immediate resignation.

I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what went wrong. His email said that the role was different than what he expected, but I was very clear throughout the interview process what this role entailed and he expressed enthusiasm about this work and our team. I can’t imagine that he learned something on day one that could have changed his entire outlook. I really can’t figure out what happened.

This feels like a big failure and I am upset, confused, and a little embarrassed. Is there anything I should do differently in the future or is this just a weird situation? How do I move forward and prove to my own boss that I am still cut out to be a manager?

There’s a very good chance that this wasn’t about you! Sometimes this just happens. He might have had another offer that he was pretty sure he was going to take when he walked in that morning … or he might have been second-guessing his acceptance of the job all along and realized after the first day that he’d been wrong to take it … or his old job might have counter-offered and he was realizing he wanted to go back to them … or he might be dealing with something personal that you couldn’t have any idea about … or this might be the third job he’s quit on his first day … or he might have recognized Xavier in Accounting as someone he’s on the lam from … or a million other explanations. There’s a very good chance that this isn’t about you at all!

That said, whenever something weird happens, it’s alway smart to reflect on whether there’s anything you need to change in your own practices. You could do things like:

Talk to your other employee about what her onboarding was like and ask if there’s anything she thinks could have gone better with her own experience.

Re-read the job posting with an eye toward making sure it really reflects what the job is like. Pretend you’ve never worked at your company before and think about how accurate an idea it would really give you of the work and the culture. Think back through the interview process with that question in mind too.

See if you can figure out when the coldness and disengagement from your new hire started. If he walked in that first morning already radiating coldness, it almost definitely has nothing to do with you. If it happened after his first meeting of the morning, take another look at what happened in that meeting. (But I’m guessing it’s more the former, since you said something seemed off from the moment he arrived.)

Think about whether anything happened between the time when he accepted the offer and when he started. Did you drop a casual mention that your whole office works 70-hour weeks?Did you send him a weird document to sign agreeing that he can be fired if his friends and family don’t follow your company’s religious values? Did you tell him he’d be writing a deeply personal poem in his first week? Any of those would do it.

Talk to anyone else who talked with him that day and see if they have any insight — sometimes people will say something to a peer that they won’t say to their manager (like “I just got another offer last night” or “my wife just left me” or who knows what).

You can tell your boss this is what you’re doing too and walk her through your conclusions, which is likely to counter any concerns from her about whether something went wrong on the company’s side.

But really, I’d put my money on this being about your (ex)employee, not you.

{ 296 comments… read them below }

  1. Bookworm*

    OP, I agree with Alison’s answer. I haven’t been in this situation myself but have seen this happen to other people. I once worked started at a job that was initially very boring (data entry) with someone else. He stopped showing up 3 weeks or so and eventually after calling his emergency contacts he made up some excuse about inheriting a business (maybe true but I would also say he handled his resignation very poorly) to my boss. It really might not be about you or the job.

    On the other hand, I also worked at a place where apparently people lasted about 6 months on average. And yeah, I was one of them. This was a case where it was the job. I think Alison’s advice is on point.

    If this hasn’t happened before, I wouldn’t sweat it, especially as you’re new to this. It happens, and *especially* now with the “Great Resignation” or “Great Reshuffle” related to the pandemic, it could be very well he got another offer or is being picky, etc.

    1. The Original K.*

      My friend worked at a place where a new hire quit after a couple of days, and in that case it really was the job. She was hired to replace someone and the person leaving was training her, and was very honest (moreso than anyone during the hiring process had been – the outgoing person hadn’t been a part of hiring). The new hire was like “Wait, what?” and quit, and was apparently very candid and said she felt she’d been misled by the process. The company’s response was to wait to rehire until the outgoing person was gone so no one could spill the tea about the job for at least a few more weeks after someone started. The fish rots from the head – it was a place that enjoyed relatively little turnover for a long time, and then they got a new Big Boss who was horrible and everybody started jumping ship.

      1. Liz*

        This sounds similar to when I left a job (not voluntarily, although it was presented as “we acquired another smaller company, and there are two people, you and someone else, and one position, and unfortunately we went with the other person). I was “let go” on a Friday, this other person started on Monday, and i’m going to guess was just thrown this one horrible task that took the better part of a week to complete, on top of everything else, and told, as I was “just figure it out”

        Anyway, my spies told me that on Tuesday, at lunch, they left, never to be seen again!

    2. Anon Entity*

      I also quit a job after a couple of days, and I agree that it’s probably not about you and there’s nothing you could have done.

      The “coldness” on day 1? That sounds like me at that job. I wasn’t thrilled about taking the job in the first place (it was my “backup” after two other jobs I was a finalist for—both of which I was genuinely excited about for different reasons—fell through), and it quickly became clear to me that the job wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Let’s say was along the lines of thinking I’d be doing teapot painting and learning that only 10% of the job was painting while 90% would be teapot quality control. Both useful activities, both needed to produce good teapots, but wanting to do one doesn’t mean wanting to do the other. I don’t know my reticence about the job showed; I tried to be sociable and make all the right noises about being excited to start the job. But it wouldn’t surprise me if I had been described as less than fully enthusiastic (if not necessarily “cold,” I hope).

      It’s no one’s fault; sometimes you get to a job and realize it’s just not the right place to be.

    3. Ace in the Hole*

      I work in garbage. New employees usually either quit within a week, or stay for many years.

      We describe the position well, have competitive pay and benefits, good management, etc. We’re very clear about what’s involved… including the less pleasant aspects of the work. But no matter how well we describe it, some people just don’t realize how strong a reaction they’ll have to garbage. There’s a big difference between being able to handle cleaning your own garbage vs being literally surrounded by garbage all day. People quit because they can’t handle the smell, because they have a phobia of needles, because getting garbage on their clothes is too gross after all. One guy walked out on his first day when he saw a used tampon.

      Every job has some elements that some people will react strongly to. Maybe it’s something you didn’t think to describe, maybe it’s something the candidate didn’t realize would be an issue until he started. Either way I’d just chalk it up as a thing that happens sometimes – don’t worry unless it becomes a pattern.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Hahah, nope – Actual honest to goodness trash… which means on particularly bad days, my job is literally a dumpster fire!

      1. TootsNYC*

        my dad worked at Home Depot in his retirement, and he said that’s about how it was. They had a hard time keeping people longer than a week.

        In his judgment, it was often that people didn’t realize how much you were on your feet, etc. Or, they were job hopping anyway and it wasn’t about Home Depot at all.

        meanwhile, there were people there a long time.

        1. WellRed*

          Anyone who applies to a retail job not understanding you Don’t Get A Desk is just clueless.

          1. Daisy*

            That’s a bit harsh. The reality of being on your feet for eight hours is a huge shock when you first start a job like that. I remember coming back from my first shop job, lying awake for hours listening to the pain in my feet, and wondering how all the older workers seem fine when I’m young and fit and can’t hack it.

            1. CowWhisperer*

              The pain decreases markedly after a few weeks to two months depending on a lot of factors. I tell people that it takes that long to kill of the combination of pressure/pain receptors from sheer exhaustion – and I’m only half kidding.

              Most of us keep bottles of different NSAIDs in our lockers to use when our feet act up. Two tabs of naproxen followed by acetaminophen usually does the trick for me – but everyone has different recommendations.

              The first week back on the job after a vacation sucks as well because your feet hurt a whole lot more.

              That’s a big reason why when I returned to retail after a teaching job and being a SAHM to a medically complicated child I emphasized that I had previous retail experience and knew the importance of good shoes. The physical demands are a major reason a lot of people who take retail jobs as a second, part-time job don’t make it past the first month.

            2. Lacey*

              Yes, the first time I worked in retail I was in agony. I was a moderately active teenager at the time, so I thought I would be fine, but there’s a big difference between walking around, or even playing tennis for a few hours than standing up at a job all day.

            3. Llama Llama*

              For me it wasn’t my feet so much (get good shoes!) as it was my hips. I did something weird to them with all the standing/squatting/lifting and had pain for a good long time before a chiropractor was able to fix the problem. Retail is definitely tough, especially someplace with concrete slab floors, and if you’re lifting a lot of heavy things repeatedly.

        2. Anon Supervisor*

          I worked part time at a grocery store and it was similar. People don’t realize how tiring it is to be on your feet all day.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            It’s kind of bull that people working the cash register are required to stand though.

            1. iiii*

              I wonder if the current Great Job Reshuffling will end with more stores giving cashiers chairs. That would be a good thing.

            2. Self Employed*

              I have read comments by people in the EU who say it just is NOT a thing for cashiers to stand. They get tall stools so they’re standing height but off their feet. I don’t know why customers in the USA react poorly to that. I always had a stool for working in the lab and am sitting on a bar chair right now at a makerspace babysitting a laser cutter. If the cashier is checking out groceries efficiently and not saying rude things, why would anyone think they are “lazy” for doing it without wrecking their feet?

        3. Drago Cucina*

          I used to include the statement for all library aide jobs, “Will stand and walk for 3 hour periods.” We of course made reasonable accommodations. The people who thought it was going to be sitting and reading was innumerable. This included retired school librarians who just wanted “a little job”.

          We did participate in a federal back to work program for senior citizens (over 55). We had one person who was still in training and after her third day didn’t come back. We tried to contact her. No response. We contacted the program rep. She avoided him and then finally admitted she didn’t want to work with people.

          1. Shhhh*

            Oh goodness, I don’t understand how any type of retired librarian could be that deluded about what a library aide job would entail. Geez.

            1. Chilipepper Attitude*

              Reminds me of the teacher who called our library asking about a job in our youth services department. She longed, she said, for a little peace and quiet.

              I don’t think she had been in a public library in a long time.

            2. Drago Cucina*

              I don’t want to be super snide. I was a school librarian for a decade and have known great school librarians. But…. I asked one of these job searching librarians about inter-library loaning a book from her school and she didn’t know what I meant.

        4. Sans Serif*

          My BIL had to quit Home Depot after a week. He’s in his upper 60s and didn’t realize how much the lifting, bending, and walking was going to affect him. A month later, and his back is still recovering.

      2. Frog*

        I’m in veterinary medicine and it is exactly the same way. People think it’s great, – until they are bitten, scratched, yelled at by a client, and god-forbid- corrected before they cause harm to themselves, the pet, a coworker, or a veterinarian. It sounds like a blast – but it’s hard thankless work. And I pay way above average and still have people quit for one or all the above reasons.

        1. Art3mis*

          I have a friend who’s a second generation veterinarian. When she expressed and interest in the field in HS her dad made her work in his practice so she KNEW what she was getting into. He didn’t want her to spend all that time and money on school just to realize she would hate it.

          1. Self Employed*

            That’s good. Vet school is MUCH harder to get into than medical school (because there are so few of them). There’s no sense taking a seat away from someone who did the internship and knows animals bite at the vet’s but still wants to do the work.

      3. Kal*

        My first job was a seasonal agricultural job, and it was a lot the same. Its hard for people to understand just how back breaking it is without actively doing it. Most new people quit after day 3, though since it was a seasonal job, it was pretty common for people who quit early to end up coming back the next year and work the full season. Even I did that, but it is just so much easier to get in the mind set to stick with it once you’ve had an actual chance to see what it really is like and then decide you’ll do it anyway. And somethings just can’t be truly described adequately in words to prepare someone – somethings just have to be experienced for someone to know if they can (or want to) handle it.

      4. Susan Ivanova*

        The ads must be picking up text from the page, because I got one about periods with a cartoon-style image, I kid you not, of a bright red tampon!

      5. JustaTech*

        My friend is a director at a daycare and had someone just walk out at lunch at the end of their first week and never come back. It was a big issue because there’s a minimum number of teachers you have to have with the kids at all times, so if someone leaves you’ve got to scramble. And then of course my friend didn’t know what had happened to the teacher, so she’s calling the hospitals and police, worried this person got hit by a car or something.

        My friend never managed to directly contact the person, but did manage to determine that they were safe and finally just mailed their paycheck to their address.

        Apparently this isn’t super uncommon at preschools and daycare – there’s way more poop and screaming than fun times and not everyone can handle it.

      6. NotJane*

        Yep, same at my job. It’s commercial roofing and my company is willing hire people with no degree or previous experience and train them. The pay is way above what someone could make in retail or fast food but they’re very up-front about the difficult physical aspects of the job. You’d be surprised at how many guys don’t realize they’re afraid of heights until their first day climbing the ladder :)

    4. dogmom*

      I only trained one person when I worked at Giant Media Corporation, despite being in my department for many years. She quit after her second day, Day 1 being general new hire orientation and Day 2 being when I trained her. She mentioned a few times when we worked together that she had actually wanted to work for a different department but my department had poached her, she was relocating from the Midwest to the Northeast and the move was difficult and she hadn’t even packed her house up yet, etc. So I wasn’t surprised to hear she had been able to get her old job in the Midwest back and quit. But of course, everybody teased me for months about what I must have said to her to make her quit after two days! I’m not gonna lie, that place was toxic so she dodged a bullet.

      1. Jay*

        Way back when I was a college kid working food service, I got promoted to trainer and my first trainee got sent on break, said she was going to sit in her car… and then never came back. Her car was gone when we looked, and we tried calling her, etc, but never heard anything. Her emergency contact was no help but at least told us she was okay. We found out later when her bf came pick up her (tiny) final (and only) paycheck that she’d just decided she didn’t like helping customers and decided that was that. I had such doubts (now resolved) about my training skills for a while after that!

      2. Anon Supervisor*

        As a lifelong midwesterner, I’m not surprised she jazzed back to home. I know quite a few people who’ve made the leap to one of the coasts, only to come back after realizing that their ENTIRE social circle is back home and a lot of people from the Midwest have difficulty making friends as adults (I count myself in this group, even though it’s certainly not true across the board). I always joke that “midwest is best” when people ask why I’ve stayed so long.

      3. California Dreamin’*

        I’m embarrassed about this story: during one of my summers n college, I got a job at a movie theater. When I was hired, they gave me the uniform I’d be wearing and I was scheduled for a shift the next day. When I put the uniform on at hime, I looked in the mirror and just went nope. (All the polyester!). Showed up when I was supposed to start my shift, handed the manager the uniform with apologies and said I wouldn’t be able to take the job after all. Ugh, young me! I will say I then went out job hunting immediately and got the coolest summer job at Tower Records, if anyone remembers them.

    5. turquoisecow*

      I had a coworker at a data entry job who went on vacation and then didn’t return. Eventually found out she decided to move to Florida (from NY) and open a Chick Fil A with her husband, which was such an odd career change that we all suspected there was more to the story. She was there maybe a year?

      1. TimeTravlR*

        I’m guessing the Chick Fil A was in the works and she was just biding her time until they got the final green light. CFA has quite a process.

        1. turquoisecow*

          As well as a move to Florida, I guess. She had two kids in school in NY and seemed pretty involved in their lives so it seemed odd to up and move hundreds of miles away to run a fast food place, but maybe it was her husband’s dream or something. No one was friends with her enough to find out the details as far as I know (or if they were, they didn’t share).

  2. SK*

    LW, I feel we can due diligence and be 110% confident in the people we choose to work for us. Ultimately, humans are unpredictable creatures. I think it’s very unlikely that you or anyone else said or did anything to negatively affect this employee who quit after the first day.

  3. Chc34*

    Yikes! I agree that this is most likely not about you. I have another suggestion: along with rereading the job posting yourself, show it to a family member or friend who have no idea what the job is like and ask them to tell you what they think the job entails.

    1. Jack Straw*

      Yes! Older teens are especially good for this if you have a child, cousin, nibling, etc. that fits the bill. I remember asking my then 17YO son to read volunteer sign-up instructions and give me feedback. It was eye opening.

  4. AZ Teacher*

    At a former employer, we had a receptionist quit by not returning from lunch. She left her sweater and when offered it told us to keep it.

    Nothing had happened that we knew of or that she was willing to share. She just changed her mind I guess. It can feel really personal, but like Alison said, it’s probably not. Some folks are terrified of any sort of confrontation. My guess is he was too afraid to come to you with whatever was happening.

    1. GotaPenny*

      I worked at a preschool and one of the new teachers took her lunch and never came back. No contact given etc. I wasn’t in upper management so I don’t know if they attempted to contact her to make sure an emergency didn’t happen but everyone was talking about it the next week how she just took off.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        On my first day at my current job, the programmer who was supposed to train me/bring me up to speed went to lunch and texted in his resignation while another programmer was picking me up from the airport. Going through the projects he left in medias res, I’m pretty sure he was severely disgruntled and not very good at what he was doing (which were likely reinforcing each other).

        I also once accepted job #1, put in my notice with job #0 I was already working at, then job #2 called me out of the blue from a recommendation by a friend and offered me more than twice the salary on my last day with job #0, so I put in my two-weeks’ notice with job #1 on my first day, started job #2 the next day, and worked both jobs 80 hours/week for those two weeks.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          ” put in my two-weeks’ notice with job #1 on my first day, started job #2 the next day, and worked both jobs 80 hours/week for those two weeks.”


          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            It’s been rare in my life when someone accuses me of sanity. It never even dawned on me that I could just quit on the spot.

            1. Eat My Squirrel*

              I’m shocked they kept you on. If my new employee gave notice on day 1 I’d be like ok, it doesn’t make sense to keep you on and train you, so today is your last day.

        2. Zephy*

          Not that I don’t believe you, but was Job 1 with Chairwarmers, Inc., or something? Why wouldn’t they have just accepted your resignation effective immediately, what would they have paid you to do for those two weeks??

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            It was a warehouse club, so training was only two days (that were 90% brainwashing) and eight days of physical labor. They were happy to have someone willing to work evenings and weekends for those two weeks, as those shifts were especially short-handed at the time. The other job was programming, so it wasn’t the same type of work. My HR contact at each claimed they really respected me for honoring as much of the commitment to #1 as I did… but if someone came to me with that scenario, I’d advise them to take job #2 and be done with it.

            1. Purlesque*

              I know someone who had the same situation and abruptly quit job#1 for job#2 and it didn’t work out all that great for her. At one of my husband’s jobs, a previous intern (before he was hired) had said she could only take the job if she got benefits. The hiring manager used up some political capital going to HR and cobbling together a benefits package that she agreed to. First day of work, she calls in a couple of hours AFTER her start time to say she got a better job offer and wouldn’t be in. The hiring manager vowed to never to go to bat for an intern again.

              A few years later, a sales rep shows up, introduces herself to my newly hired husband who is working as a process engineer. She finagled a sale of her product after spending many hours over several months running trials with her product. Once approved, she was to shift over to reporting to my husband’s boss who remembered her as the intern who no-showed on her first day. He let her do all the work on getting her company’s product in and then had her banned from the premises. Subsequent sales commissions went to her replacement.

              1. Addie*

                This seems like your husband’s boss took the departure too personally. The boss decided that using up some political capital was worth financially impacting someone else? For a decision that they made as an intern? I can understand not wishing to hire her again, but it seems harsh to impact her earnings over an early-career professional mistake.

                1. countes_cutlass*

                  I agree. There’s a level of vindictiveness there that seems…way too egregious for the actual transgression. I feel that reflects more poorly on the boss than on the intern, honestly.

              2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I showed up, was completely honest and transparent, and did everything I could to do right by everyone involved, but I am still lucky my story didn’t end this way.

      2. DataGirl*

        One of my kids had a teacher in 5th grade (so about 9/10 years old) just walk out in the middle of the school day and never come back. After sitting for a while alone one of the kids eventually went to the office to let them know the teacher was gone. She wasn’t new, but was struggling with a terrible, abusive student and his parents who wouldn’t do anything about their precious baby’s violent behavior so she just broke down one day and walked out.

        1. Not A Manager*

          And just left all the kids in an unsupervised room with the violent student? That would sound like the setup to a bad horror movie, except it’s real life.

          1. Mobius 1*

            I’m not sure the student was necessarily in that classroom at that moment. Given that they were in 5th grade I doubt they were going to different rooms for different classes or anything, but I’d bet he was suspended or otherwise not in play at the moment.

        2. AZ Teacher*

          We had a math teacher do that the second day of school a few years ago. He cursed out the class and left. The students eventually sent someone to the office to let them know he’d quit. What a nightmare.

          1. Not Bayside*

            We had s teacher in high school do the same thing. She had a nervous breakdown in class and stomped out if the room saying “Donnie, make me a mommy again!”

          2. Sans Serif*

            I remember our 9th grade science teacher got all upset, walked out, and quit. We really weren’t being bad – just joking around a bit, nothing extreme. The principal came storming in, asked us what we could have possibly done to make him quit. We were all stunned. We had no idea.

        3. Observer*

          She wasn’t new, but was struggling with a terrible, abusive student and his parents who wouldn’t do anything about their precious baby’s violent behavior so she just broke down one day and walked out.

          And where was the school administration in all of this?

          1. HotSauce*

            My sister had to contact her union rep and get an emergency transfer when one of her students kept physically attacking her and her other students, admin refused to do anything. The student had been diagnosed with RAD and was completely unequipped to function among her peers. It was a sad situation, she was in foster care and her foster parents had no idea how to handle her, so they just enrolled her in school where she stabbed another student in the leg with a pencil, spread her feces on the school bus windows, and kneecapped my sister with her chair among other incidents. My sister ended up leaving the district.

          2. The Rafters*

            My sister was a special ed teacher for years and very rarely had any real problems with her kids. She lucked out by almost always getting parents who were really on the teachers’ sides. But she did tell me several stories of other teachers with violent or potentially violent students and their parents, and according to her, Administration was always useless.

            1. Forrest*

              I had two friends who started teaching at the same time, both teaching in primary (5-11) with classes that other teachers described as “challenging”. One of them talked about long conversations with her teaching mentor, getting sent on extra training courses, having the headteacher sit in the classroom with her a few times a week and go over different situations with her afterwards, etc etc. The other got colleagues nodding and saying, “yeah, sounds really difficult, I wouldn’t want to teach that class.” It was such a marked difference in what good support looked like! Guess which one is still teaching and which one left after two years.

        4. Sasha*

          Oh if we are including teachers in this, one of mine claimed he was going to the toilet, and five minutes later somebody spotted him through the window ^sprinting^ down the road away from the school, never to be seen again.

          We never found out why (unfortunately for us, the other teachers at that school had professional boundaries – in contrast the teachers at my senior school would have leaked like a sieve).

        5. Deejay*

          One of my teachers told a story of his experience of the Cuban Missile Crisis. His teacher walked into the classroom, said “It’s pointless doing this. We’ll all be dead soon” and walked out.

          He ended the story there. We never found out if the teacher came back or faced any consequences.

    2. New Job So Much Better*

      I hired a woman who went out to her car for “cough drops” on her first day and never returned. When she finally returned my call, she said she’d overstated her experience on her resume and was afraid she couldn’t do the job. (which is a shame, because I could have trained her. )

    3. Jessica*

      Long ago I worked at a place where a new hire on her first day went to the bathroom midmorning and never came back. We were a small suite in a larger office building, the bathroom was not in our suite but elsewhere in the building, and we had a key for it (since it was only for the employees of the building’s business tenants, not for the public).
      Maybe a week later, I was at work when my boss got a call and learned that this person had GIVEN HER AS A REFERENCE. Needless to say, her reference was not positive… and it ended with “and tell her we want our bathroom key back!”

      1. GotaPenny*

        Did you ever see the movie Summer School? One of the students is gone for like 2 months and when he returns to take the test he returns the bathroom pass. his reason: His zipper was stuck

        1. Eat My Squirrel*

          If I remember correctly he also scored highest on the test of anyone. Because he didn’t really need remedial education and decided to prove it by not coming all summer.

          Man I forgot about that movie. I should rewatch it… that was a classic.

          1. CowWhisperer*

            I’ve never seen the movie but until the mid-2000’s my state had a draconian take on attendance requirements for passing high school classes.

            I was teaching at that point in an alternative education school where the attendance policies were very different, but got a job teaching summer school for high school biology for a traditional high school. During the two years I taught the class, I’d have three or four kids in the class who clearly knew the material and were solid students – and I had no idea why on earth they were in this class.

            Turns out those kids had somehow gone far over the maximum number of missed days and didn’t have parents who pushed to get a variance to prove the student had mastered the content.

            I would have understood if the student had chronic attendance problems due to skipping – but these kids usually had a major acute illness requiring hospitalization. I had something like 3 kids who had had ruptured appendixes – and there is a way to set up home-based tutoring even if it isn’t lined up in time to be useful.

            Thankfully, there was a lawsuit against the state for violating ADA in attendance polices and that’s in the past now.

            1. Dramatic Romantic*

              Oh Hi! This is me! Except I was in summer school for skipping a specific class. I absolutely hated a teacher in an elective class. I tried to switch to something/anything different and the teacher would not sign off on letting me out of the class (and my parents wouldn’t advocate on my behalf). So I just didn’t go- I’d sit in the library and sometimes even in the school office- but wouldn’t go to the class. And I failed that class for attendance, but took the midterms and finals and did all of the assignments, passed those with some of the highest grades in the class, but I refused to step into that classroom except on midterm and finals day. And in order to graduate with my class, I needed to take it over a summer, thankfully with a different teacher. It was a different time I guess. I don’t think it would fly now.

          2. Chris Young*

            No one understands why I say “Go away, beach dog!” every time a dog comes near me. This movie.

        2. Not a Blossom*

          I own 2 copies of that on DVD (oops), and I’m not even embarrassed.

          “Take your seats.”
          “Where should be take them?”

    4. Working with Accountants*

      I once got a job with a Firm because the receptionist they hired left after the first day and wouldn’t come back. When they finally reached her a week later, she said it was too hard and she wasn’t prepared for the fast pace. They hired me a few days after that (with a very quick interview/offer process!) and I was stunned how easy it was to learn the job, even in tax season. I have never looked back – that job was very good to me, and while I hope that first receptionist found something more her speed, I’m glad she left them in the lurch because I benefitted big time! (And, to my credit, so did the Firm, because I’m usually competent and sometimes even awesome.)

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I owe my entire career to a very similar circumstance – although that receptionist was like – I can’t do this – call TTTT – I bet she can (we had worked together on another project). My life was literally changed by that!

      2. no phone calls, please*

        Thanks for that@Working with Accountants! My new personal slogan will now be:
        “I’m usually competent and sometimes even awesome.”


      3. Lucky Librarian*

        I have a similar story–I was a substitute teacher, and was offered a half-year position at a school after their librarian pushed a child off the chair and ran out. It was a rowdy school, but I learned a lot, and have been a very happy teacher librarian for the last 5+ years, which is a job that can be hard to get even with a graduate library degree.

    5. Former Young Lady*

      In my late teens, I was a supervisor for concessions/usher staff at a live theatre. We had a woman in her 40s or 50s join the staff. She spent the first part of the shift laughing at the idea that she was reporting to someone so young; faux pas aside, she didn’t show any signs of what was to come.

      Interacting with the public was apparently too much, though. She broke into a visible cold sweat at the concession stand, and hung back while us “kids” did all the cashiering. When intermission was over, she disappeared without a word. I think we found her uniform vest and apron discarded in an office somewhere.

    6. TrainerGirl*

      When I was in college, I took a temp job as a receptionist over the holidays for a mortgage company at the beginning of a refi boom. I couldn’t figure out why they kept offering to go get lunch for me. I think they were afraid I’d go out for a break and not come back! They offered quite a bit of money to get me to stay when it was time to go back to school, because I was the only one who stayed for more than a day or two.

    7. Tupac Coachella*

      At a former job, we had someone come in for one day and never come back, saying she didn’t think she could do the job when they called her. In her defense, our job required extensive use of a VERY not-intuitive computer system that could be pretty intimidating at first, plus we worked with the public. The problem was that she had been on unemployment before she was hired…and we were the unemployment office. By starting and then quitting a job, she became instantly ineligible, with almost no chance of an appeal being approved since we knew too much about the situation for them to give her the benefit of the doubt (which is how a lot of appeals do get approved-our state tends to favor the employee when the stories don’t match up and there’s no concrete evidence). Exactly no one took any pleasure in the irony of this; it was during a recession, and we knew she now had no income and no prospects due to a run-of-the-mill poor fit situation. I hope she’s doing ok.

    1. eons*

      If I was the person who quit and this call was anytime other than literally the next day after I left, I would think it was weird that they contacted me

      1. HQetc*

        I don’t know that it really matters if the ex-employee would find the OP or their company weird for contacting him. OP and co probably think he’s a bit weird too at this point! No reason not to at least try to figure out what the heck happened. If they hear nothing back or get nothing useful from him, then nothing’s changed anyway. If he would badmouth the co for trying to get in touch to see what happened (which would be a *super* weird reaction) then odds are good he’s already badmouthing them about whatever the heck caused him to bail in the first place, so I wouldn’t place too much weight on that consideration.

      2. voyager1*

        Oh for sure, it should have been done that day she got the email. But if the LW really wants to know…

        I honestly would just choke it to a counter-offer from his previous employer or he had another offer come in after he accepted this job.

        1. OP*

          OP here. I reached out right away to see if I could get more information. If it was something I did or there was a miscommunication that could have been avoided, I absolutely wanted to know. Unfortunately, he didn’t respond and also appears to have blocked me on LinkedIn. So seems like this will remain a mystery…

          1. BRR*

            Does his LinkedIn profile show information if you’re logged out of yours? If I was in your shoes I’d be keeping an eye out if he was in a different position right away.

            But I’m sorry this happened. I would be racking my brain as well. It’s good to take a second look at how you hire/on board but it sounds like it was him.

          2. Khatul Madame*

            You could look him up on LinkedIn while not logged in, or ask another person (ideally with a Premium or Recruiter account!) to look him up.

          3. PJ*

            Oh man…. very interesting. He blocked you? You know it seems like you might have dodged a bullet with this one! It appears that he doesn’t handle these kinds of things in a very composed or professional way.

          4. meyer lemon*

            Unless there is something very weird in your office that you haven’t mentioned (is it a velociraptor-friendly office by any chance?), it seems like this guy has something else going on and has no idea how to handle it. If he knew it was going to be an issue from moment 1, though, I wonder why he bothered showing up at all.

          5. They Don’t Make Sunday*

            I wonder if he doesn’t want you to see where he’s working. If it’s a different new job, he may be worried you’d tell them? Or if it’s his old job and he doesn’t want you to know he never quit/went back/I dunno.

          6. Wisteria*

            I can see OP’s side of things:

            “I left this job after a day, not great, granted, but my boss won’t let it go! They even tracked me down on LinkedIn! Bullet dodged, man… I blocked them, of course.”

      3. Mobius 1*

        IMO quitting on your first day (especially in the particular way and with the particular affect that happened here) is enough of a breach of the social contract that subsequent actions taken wrt this issue have much freer reign before being considered weird themselves.

    2. Bird Lady*

      I used to work in social services. We had a new case manager leave at lunch the Friday of her first week, never to return. When HR reached out, the individual emailed back to never contact her again and that was that. About two weeks later the individual was seen by her past co-workers at a state conference for our field. We are in a small state and everyone knows and works with each other smh.

  5. Construction Safety*

    We recently had a senior VP quit after his 3rd week on the job. I give equal likelihood to 1) we a lot more dysfunctional then he could have imagined (not unlikely) ; or 2) another job he was interviewing for come up with a better offer.

    1. Nicotena*

      Honestly it is so difficult that jobs can have slightly different timetables meaning that one that sounds way more interesting / pays better may be two or three weeks behind the one making you an offer right now. It stinks for everybody, really. For the record, that’s my guess as to what happened to OP.

  6. GotaPenny*

    I worked at a hotel and hired this great girl for front desk. She came in on the first day, walked around the lobby then left. I assumed that she was getting something from her car or something. She then called me 15 minutes later saying she couldn’t do it. She said she was sorry, and that was it.
    I would rather have her quit like that then put in time and effort in training for her then to quit after trying to make it work. Its best that its a good fit for both parties. I would tell myself that she wouldn’t have been happy and it was the right decision. Whether or not that’s true, it’s what helped me move forward.

    1. anonymouse*

      Honestly, this. I’m a big fan of rip off the band-aid.
      New employee had his reasons, for good or ill and was not going to stay.
      Introspection is good and reviewing the day is important, but remember that you don’t have all the details and ultimately you never will.
      Accept that there is just as much chance that he had a reason 100% separate from your company as much as directly related.
      Going forward, I don’t think you can prepare for this, look out for this or avoid this.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      I did a similar thing with a hotel job when I was a teenager. I really appreciate your take on it!

    3. Tazzy*

      I had something similar happen when I was working reception for a doctor’s office. I had someone come to their interview and start filling out their paperwork, then come up and say they left something in their car. I told them that was fine. Except… they never came back? I retrieved the clipboard with the blank application on it from the waiting room after about 45 minutes.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Removed a long thread here about girl vs. woman; once it’s been called out, please don’t belabor the point, y’all, since it’s off-topic. (Presumably this was indeed an adult woman though!)

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        I think one point from the removed thread stands as on-topic: the word choice—and especially doubling down with ‘chick’!—is a flag for reflection on the kind of work environment that may have existed during the events described.

    5. Anon Supervisor*

      I did this once a few years ago. Got a second job at a grocery store at the meat counter. Quit after the first day because I was appalled at how they handled raw meat and a couple of the butchers were absolute d-bags. I feel somewhat bad, but I just couldn’t continue.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I once saw a house hunting TV show, where a woman had such a bad feeling on the approach to one of the potential houses that she refused to even go inside.

        Turning that to work, sometimes you can feel that you wouldn’t be happy working in that particular building. I had an interview once in a stuffy office which was giving me a headache, and another in a bleak industrial park with buses only every hour, and no proper pavement or street lights.

      2. Susan Ivanova*

        I quit after one day at the very bottom of advertising research – remember going to malls and there’d be someone with a clipboard asking if you wanted to take a survey? I was in the back room giving the survey. Asking people how they liked a new food product was fine, but when the minimum-wage-earning high school dropout said yes, she did believe the shampoo that cost more than she made in an hour would “make her beautiful”, I decided advertising was not for me.

  7. SlimeKnight*

    OP, don’t beat yourself up. I had a new person start a few weeks ago. On the second day I didn’t see them after lunch, but I was very busy and figured they must have been out shadowing one of my other team members. I came in the next morning to see an email from HR that they had resigned. No reason was given. This was for one of our entry level positions that we have had trouble filling. I think she probably was waiting to see if other offers came through, and one did.

    I am an intensely self-critical person, so it is difficult not to feel like I had something wrong. But while I am sure there are things that I could have done better, and our onboarding isn’t perfect, I also think hiring is sometimes a crapshoot, especially right now!

    1. Anonym*

      I think it takes a lot for someone to leave due to onboarding! I’m really struggling to think of something about the process that would make me jump, and coming up empty.

      1. OP*

        I really appreciate this! I’ve spent a lot of time overthinking each interaction and going through onboarding materials to see if there was something that could be a red flag. But I really can’t come up with anything either!

        1. Mimi*

          Yeah, it would need to be an absolutely MASSIVE red flag for me to just up and leave without even checking in with my manager or another coworker about it. Onboarding might be a little boring, yeah, but you don’t really know what the job is, yet, especially not after a single day. How can you know you don’t like it?

      2. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

        I should have bailed during onboarding during my previous job. So many red flags were waving in my face just in the first 6hrs alone. But I thought I wanted to do the work and the problems might be something I could either work through, or help fix.

        Ultimately, I left after 6mos and am now in a job that’s a complete 180 to the better.
        The 6mos job at least gives me some horror stories to share in conversations.

      3. Meep*

        There is an upper manager in my company who point-blank upon first meeting her told me unprompted “I have no issue cutting people out of my life who have wronged me. You do something to upset me and you are dead to me.” Again, this was my first encounter with this woman. I had been with the company for maybe two weeks as an intern up to this point. As far as I could tell, I was only given the speech because I was female and therefore must be a catty, horrible gossip.

        I should’ve quit right there, tbh. I now know that is a good reason to bail. My second encounter she informed me her adopted 15-year-old daughter must’ve been an “alike baby” (from Russia) while describing pretty normal 15-year-old girl things. You can now probably guess who the problem child in our office is.

        tl;dr Now that I am older, if someone in power said something concerning like that I would leave Day 1, no questions asked.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          What did she mean by “alike baby”? I risked Google and turned up nothing. Is it Russian slang? Auto-INcorrect?

          1. Nihlus*

            I was thinking something along the lines of a changeling. That’s just a wild guess though.

      4. PT*

        I worked somewhere where we had a TON of people leave due to onboarding. Because the time from application to interview to onboarding took four to eight weeks and required you to travel as far as 50 miles (highway access only) from your primary worksite to do a Day One Orientation. At one point there was some slowdown at HR and this lag was up to 12 weeks.

        The people in full time professional titles were fine with this. The people in part time entry level roles, who were often reliant on mass transit or walking or biking or getting a ride from a friend and in need of whatever job would give them money as quickly as possible? They were not OK with this. We’d lose candidate after candidate from the pipeline as they’d get hired somewhere closer to home that would give them hours ASAP without making them Amazing Race themselves to regional HQ in the middle of the workweek.

        So we were massively short-staffed, and those jobs sat empty. Because getting someone from “applicant” to “employee” was too hard.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Did they ever try to hire new people in groups and take them there in a minivan?

  8. EngGirl*

    I’ve never had a same day, but I have had people leave within a couple weeks.

    One person’s partner got into a grad school in another state unexpectedly so he left to be with her.

    The other person was given a task which was fairly simple if you’d been at my job a while, but I can see how it would seem near impossible to a new hire. The goal of their manager was to see how they thought and look at their problem solving, but I think it was a little heavy handed and the new hire freaked out about expectations.

    1. HotSauce*

      I hate managers like this. I don’t need a critical thinking exercise as an adult. Give me the tools to do my job and eventually I’ll be able to solve problems on my own, but to expect someone with no experience to complete something they’re not familiar is an exercise in futility and bound to build frustration.

      1. Mimi*

        I mean, there’s value in the manager knowing how the employee thinks, which can inform what sorts of tasks it makes sense to give them, who to pair them with, what they will need support or training in… But this doesn’t sound like a good implementation of that. Stretch projects that are too hard for a newbie will certainly result in frustration.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I also think that if you’re going to do stretch projects or other kinds of tests like this, be clear with the person on expectations! Hiding the ball only frustrates people — if this is the kind of high-stakes or high-pressure job where I need to be able to do stuff like that, I want to know! But if you just want to see how I problem solve and I might not get this right the first time, that’s important to know as well. You can still effectively learn these things without creating nonsense ways to test people.

        2. PT*

          It is tricky, too, based on what the job is. I have reported to jobs who don’t know my subject area as well as I do. So they’ll ask me something easy like, “We really miss having the llamas in the pasture out front. A few llama directors ago we had llamas in the pasture, but the last llama director didn’t do that. Can you put the llamas in the pasture again?”

          Someone who is an inexperienced llama director might say, “oh sure I can do that! I’ll patch up the fence and put the llamas out!” But someone who is an experienced llama director might say, “Well, maybe. What’s the fence like? What’s the drainage? Is the ground level or is full of holes that could break the llama’s legs? Is the grass or plant life something llamas cannot eat, there are some plants that can make llamas really sick. Is there shade for the llamas to go to on hot days? Shelter on rainy or cold ones? A source of running water? Are there fleas, flies, mosquitoes or any other bugs that could bite the llamas there that we might have to have pest control handle first?”

          And then the boss comes back and is like, “Experienced Llama Director, it sounds like you have no idea what you’re doing. Inexperienced Llama Director said this is easy, we can just patch the fence!” So Experienced Llama Director gets insulted, and the llamas end up in a busted pasture because the boss liked the easy answer.

          1. nothing rhymes with purple*

            This may be the best use of the Llama metaphor ever. And also 100+ true.

          2. Chilipepper Attitude*

            This may also be the best explanation of the promotion process at my employer.

  9. Heidi*

    I’m really sorry this happened to you on your first hire, OP. I hope you don’t feel too demoralized. Most of the “bailed on the first day” stories I’ve heard involves some sort of outside stressor that had nothing to do with the job. Like the post from a while back about the guy who didn’t show up because he was in jail. Even if the job had turned out different than he anticipated, the employee had the option to ask for clarification about the role or give it a few days to see how it went. The fact that he took such an extreme action makes me think there was something else going on.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, it takes a really extreme violation to make quitting after the first day seem reasonable based on the new employer (as opposed to other issues). I can think of a few, but most fall under the heading of wild discrimination or behaviors on display and not being stopped immediately by management. In the current situation only, I’d add “covid precautions different than expected” – but if it wasn’t discussed explicitly during interviews, I’d *still* think a clarifying discussion and/or request to WFH might happen before the resignation.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’d *still* think a clarifying discussion and/or request to WFH might happen before the resignation.

        Given the reaction I got to sending a disruptive but necessary employee home to work remotely part-time, I would just resign if my choices were resignation and requesting remote work when it wasn’t discussed or offered during recruitment. That question seems to have a lot more baggage than I would have naively believed pre-pandemic.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          EDIT: I suggested sending the employee home to work; I didn’t actually do the sending. I seem to have linked two half-sentences together that didn’t quite mesh…

  10. Scott*

    when I was 16 I got my first job in a local shop and on the second day they asked me to clean the toilets. When I asked if there was rubber gloves I was told I could buy a pair from the shop. I did not go back.

    when I was made redundant just after Xmas I took what I intended to be a stop-gap job in a call-centre. On the first day I sat beside two men who were as far apart from me as they were from the supervisors, so I knew if I could hear everything said then so could they. In amongst the usual whats-your-name-where-you-from small talk conversations, they covered topics such as “trans people aren’t real people,” “I wear these trousers because they’re great to carry drugs in,” “let’s look at some photos of gory injuries from car accidents,” and “how many fistfights have you been in?” The supervisors not having any kind of reaction to hearing this, coupled with the prospect of these people being my colleagues, meant I did not go back for a second day.

    I doubt it was poor management given what you had lined up for his first day – it sounds like you had a very thorough and well-structured plan. But if he heard or saw something that seemed so egregious to his personal values that it justified it from someone else then it maybe just wasn’t worth it, and actually if the culture fit wasn’t there then maybe he’s done you a favour by realising now instead of when you’ve spent six months on training and development.

  11. Knope Knope Knope*

    I convinced my last company to hire a former boss of mine into a really senior role. He had his tech all set up and a press release went out and he met the whole team, then he quit on day 2. I later learned that Big Tech Company Everyone Knows offered him a better job, and we must have been the backup all along. I bet if you follow this new hire/non hire’s LinkedIn you may find some answers.

    1. Momma Bear*

      I wondered about that, too. Was he trying out multiple jobs? Did his counter offer suddenly come through?

      1. OP*

        That seems like the most likely answer – either a counteroffer from his previous job or an even better offer coming through last minute. However, if that were the case, I would have appreciated if he had been upfront about it instead of trying to put the blame on me/my company for the role being different than expected.

        1. HotSauce*

          It’s a smokescreen, used to make themselves feel justified in doing something crappy.

        2. Wisteria*

          Have you ever been rejected for a job you applied to bc they were looking for someone with more experience? His answer is the resignation equivalent of that. When you apply for a job, they know your experience. They have a resume. They tell you something tepid to reject you to make it as painless as possible. This is what your new hire did. He told you something tepid to make resigning as painless as possible. Let it go.

          1. ecnaseener*

            No, the equivalent of this scenario would be like offering you the job and then firing you on your first day because “you don’t have enough experience.”

            1. Wisteria*

              Thanks for your thoughts on the similarity of the scenarios! My response centered on the reason given by the new hire, not the scenario itself. Do you have thoughts on the similarities between the reason the new hire gave rejecting the company and reasons that companies give for rejecting candidates?

              1. ecnaseener*

                I don’t think the reasons are especially similar either. “This isn’t what I signed up for” is a very different statement than “this isn’t for me (so I won’t sign up for it).” You can’t really extricate the timing from the reasoning in this case, because turning a yes into a no carries the implication that something has changed since when you said yes.

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            No, this isn’t the same at all. The equivalent to “rejected by a job you applied for” would be more like:

            Company A offers a job, the candidate takes time to consider, then declines the offer to join Company B.

            What OP’s ex-employee did was like:

            Company Alpha offers a job, candidate accepts the job and starts. Then, on Day 2, Company Alpha fires the candidate because they found someone else.

            And I think almost anyone even slightly reasonable would also consider Company Alpha to be pretty unprofessional.

            1. Wisteria*

              Thanks for your thoughts on the similarity of the scenarios! My response centered on the reason given by the new hire, not the scenario itself. Do you have thoughts on the similarities between the reason the new hire gave rejecting the company and reasons that companies give for rejecting candidates?

        3. Forrest*

          “put the blame” is a very personal way to take this! I totally get why you’re feeling freaked out by it, when this is only your second hire and you don’t have a track record of success to look back on. But you’ve got to de-personalise this. Having made the decision to burn this bridge for a better offer, the employee gave you a bland non-answer and departed into the sunset. If someone wrote in to Ask A Manager saying, “I left on my first day because I got a better offer / was eaten by a llama / got offered a last-minute place on Jeff Besos’s space-penis, do I owe it to my new boss to reassure it it wasn’t her fault?”, everyone would just say, nahh, you fulfilled the absolutely minimum requirements by letting them know you weren’t coming back, there is no point explaining yourself further.

          You’re seeking closure and a guarantee that its not your fault– fundamentally, you need to get that from your own self-reflection, your own manager, and time, not from the ex-employee. You did what you could. Let it go.

    2. Mobius 1*

      Oh gosh. I can’t imagine how red my face would’ve been in your shoes. Hopefully your reputation didn’t take a hit from his actions?

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        I was very embarrassed but my reputation did not suffered. I was promoted twice before leaving for a better company.

    3. Artemesia*

      I hve been embarrassed to go to bat for someone who it turns out was merely playing with us to get a better offer elsewhere. One guy pulled it 3 times, Lucy with the football style — and the authorities were so convinced of their charm and his integrity that they got taken round the barn each time and came back for more. Never did accept an offer from us.

  12. Momma Bear*

    Re: his comment about the role being different, it’s hard to say what he meant by that. I’d compare the onboarding materials with the job description, but sometimes people’s expectations are different than reality. Or they know they are going to be grooming llamas but somehow thought that didn’t involve any hair or possible spit. I had someone who was very clearly hired for a PT summer job whose overinflated ego wanted a much higher level job. When they didn’t get it, they ghosted. No one mislead them about the nature of the job. People are weird.

    IMO this has nothing to do with you as a manager and much more to do with someone who would quit on day 2 without discussing his concerns with you on day 1.

    1. Smithy*

      All of this may very well be possible – but the comment about the job description not matching the job brought one possibility to mind that may be worth exploring.

      I work in a sector where there’s very little cohesiveness across employers regarding job titles. In one place I worked, a “Manager” could be leading/supervising a fairly large team and in the next a “Manager” was nearly the most junior role on the team. And by reading the job descriptions, those levels of seniority – particularly when the role is more junior – isn’t always obvious. As a result, you would see people start on day one and realize that regardless of salary, they’d taken a step backwards in terms of seniority, responsibility, and leadership opportunities.

      If that at all reads like a possibility to the OP, one way of making that more clear at least during the interview process is to explain the overall team structure. Essentially “this is how the team is structured, this is how this person fits in an organigram, etc. Sometimes a lot of internal jargon can make the actual seniority of mid-level roles very unclear, and instead of fighting that in a job description – it’s worth taking more time during the interview process.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        There are also plenty of job titles that include the word “manager” but don’t involve managing people – office manager, account manager, stuff like that.

        1. Smithy*

          The Manager example on its own may not be more confusing because of what you said – but I do know for a fact that my corner of the nonprofit world, lack of parity across titles from organization to organization is a real issue. What you’d expect from the title Director, Officer, VP – there’s just a huge amount of fluctuation from one organization to another.

          Older/more sophisticated candidates will be able to sniff out the difference if they’ve found themselves in a role far more junior than they want. And certainly sometimes there are a salary discrepancies which can help better articulate those differences. But if the salary is hitting on what you’re requesting, and you’re desperate to leave your old job/really eager for the possibilities at a new place….people make bad calls.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          My successor in a previous office manager role was confused by what the word “manager” meant for her role. I had lunch with her a few times so she could ask me any questions, and it tuned out that she thought “manager” meant that she had authority over the designers’ schedules. I told her no, that they were governed by the demands of the work and kept their own hours, and that her job was to manage the *office*, not the designers. She did not get it, and ended up being let go within a couple of months.

        3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Oddly, I worked with a senior HR person who was hung up on the idea of a “_____ Manager” not managing people when we were deciding on a new title for my role.

          What made this extra confusing to me was that we had an “Office Manager” who definitely didn’t manage people.

  13. Feta*

    I do wonder if something came up that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you but was a big deal to him. No job description can perfectly cover everything.

    I once accepted a job as a software developer and they mentioned casually on my first day, “Oh yeah, here are the phones for when you help out on helpdesk when the customer service reps aren’t available.”

    Wait. What? I got into this field so I wouldn’t have to take user facing calls ever again. It wasn’t a big deal to them but to me it was everything. Thankfully we were able to work it out but if not, I would have left. It’s not particularly hard to find a job in my field and I don’t have the mental fortitude or personality to take customer facing calls.

    I can also imagine being in a situation like that and being embarrassed about leaving over such a “minor” thing and not being willing to fess up to what the issue was.

    Sorry to get all into the weeds of my personal story but yeah. Just wonder if something like that came up.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Sounds like the difference here is that you wanted to work it out/talked about it vs just noping out of there.

  14. Bee Eye Ill*

    I have a relative with a degree in finance and an MBA, and she once took a job as an accountant where the boss really wanted a personal assistant to help with the books. On the first day he handed her a bunch of laundry to take to the cleaners, plus coffee instructions, and she promptly walked out.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I interviewed for and accepted a job as a “receptionist” for a small business. The job turned out to be 90% data entry and envelope stuffing and only 10% working the front desk since it became obvious once I started that they had almost no need for any public-facing staff. I stayed because I knew it was just for the summer and I preferred data entry anyway, but someone with actual experience as a receptionist would have felt like it was a bait-and-switch. OTOH, the pay was only slightly over min wage and someone with actual experience probably wouldn’t have bothered applying, much less accepting the offer.

  15. pretzelgirl*

    I have a few friends that have quit jobs on their first days. One was a job in a professional setting and the rest were restaurant/retail type jobs. It always amazes me that they just never went back. Most of the time it was 100% them not wanting to do the job and they couldn’t or did’nt want to say no when offered the job. I am not that kind of person so its hard for me to understand!

  16. AndersonDarling*

    I was at a company where a very specialized role was given to an individual who then stated on their first day that they didn’t understand what the job was and then quit. It would be the equivalent of a Llama Sculpture Painter. All candidates had the rare degree in Llama Art, and the title for the job was Llama Sculpture Painter. The top candidate spent a day on-site observing what went into Llama Sculpture Painting. But on her first day, she was horrified to find out that she would be painting llama sculptures. And I really mean that she was horrified! She walked out and never returned.
    I guess if someone has an imaginary idea of a job, they can ride that dream magic carpet until it sets down in the reality of the first day of work.
    And there could be people who get so caught up in the game of interviewing that they just want to win the job. But they figure out they don’t really want the prize.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “ride that dream magic carpet until it sets down in the reality…”


  17. MassMatt*

    I’d do everything Alison suggested but if that doesn’t turn up anything I’d try to not beat myself up about it. Even with the most diligent hiring process, there’s a chance of a bad hire, and as others have pointed out maybe he had another offer or had some extraordinary issue.

    It sounds as though you’ve been thorough in matching the job description to the job and being honest about what it entails, but as others have pointed out sometimes people hear this and nod along and when actually confronted with it they balk. This happens a lot in sales and call centers, or jobs like data entry or filing and the like that are repetitive. People may think “I can do that” but then when the phone or files loom they realize they don’t want to do it.

  18. Former call centre worker*

    I used to work in social care and this happens a lot in care homes. When hiring, the managers would try to be clear about what the job involves but it was still fairly common to have no-shows on day 2 when people had seen their workplace and had a chance to think about the reality of it. I also know someone who quit a job after a day because it involved speaking over a tannoy and she was too shy.

    I’m guessing there’s nothing obviously emotionally difficult about the letter writer’s line of work or they wouldn’t have been mystified by it, but maybe it’s possible that there’s something everyone has normalised that might be offputting for some, like one of their clients/customers is a tobacco company/arms manufacturer/whatever or the job involves doing something some people will hate.

    1. Lora*

      Oh wow…I did this to a nursing home when I was in college. Got hired as an aide, walked in first day and they had all the Alzheimer’s / dementia patients in the common room and they were trying to get them to make crafty hats. Some were really immobile at that point, so it was surreal and awful at the same time – they’d been loaded into wheelchairs, some of them strapped into their wheelchairs to keep them sitting up, and rolled into the common room, then a bunch of plastic flowers and glue set in front of them and told “we’re making hats today!” Some people were like, “eff your hat, I want to watch TV” and some were completely out of it and some were putting glue on other people and some were crying and freaking out because they didn’t understand what was going on or whatever. And at that point I’d already seen a couple of close relatives die horribly of Alzheimer’s and thought immediately:

      1. I cannot handle this
      2. I hope I die quickly of a heart attack

      and I left a teary voicemail for the hiring manager saying I was so sorry but I can’t do this.

      1. Non non*

        Oh I want to give college age you a hug and say it’s okay. (I just lost a loved one last week so I’m a bit more emotional than usual.)

      2. Former call centre worker*

        It’s not for everyone and I’m sure they’d have understood – it probably wasn’t the first time that had happened.

        In my case the staff we were hiring weren’t the care staff so it was mostly people who’d come from similar jobs other sectors, with no social care experience.

  19. Mental Lentil*

    I’ve had this happen a few times. It’s not fun, but it happens. It just seems weird because it was your very first hire.

    Heads up, though. The job market is very volatile right now and I fully expect that we will see more of this type of thing. Workers are realizing that they aren’t entirely powerless.

  20. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    We had someone walk off the job in the middle of his first day and never told anyone he was leaving. It took leaving voicemails for an ex-spouse and reviewing security cameras after a thorough building search to make sure he was ok. Ex-spouse evidently told him to let HR know because we were short of conducting a welfare check. Turns out he realized he was nowhere near qualified for the work he’d be performing and nope’d right out of here. You just don’t know people sometimes, and they do this. In our case we would have been glad if he’d emailed or even left a note. He worked in a department with a lot of climbing/machinery/crawlspace work and, well… it would have spared a few points on the blood pressure machine.

  21. OliveJuice90*

    When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I was in the oldest group for a Summer Camp program that my school put on each year. I was delivering crayons for some project to each classroom that was divided up by grade. I got to the end of the hallway where the kindergartners were. The camp counselor was nowhere to be found and the kids were “ice skating” by dumping water on the floor and using paper towels as “skates”. When I asked them where Mr. H was they just said, “Oh, he quit!” Apparently, he had told this group of 5 and 6 year olds that he was quitting and just walked out on them. I’m in my 30’s now- but I will never forget how shocked I was…
    Sometimes- these things happen- it’s nothing personal- just thank goodness your employee wasn’t in charge of little children…

    1. MissBliss*

      Very similar experience, but volunteer. At my week long summer camp with only volunteer counselors, it was the first day of camp- before campers arrived- and this one counselor showed up. They had showed up for the pre-camp retreat, too. Stayed for the morning training then left for lunch. Never came back.

      A couple of years later, halfway through the week, my co-counselor decided the pre-teens and teenagers in our cabin were too rowdy and declared she would no longer be a counselor. Fortunately we had someone on senior staff step in. Her significant other was a counselor at camp so she stayed the rest of the week. It was awkward.

  22. Liz*

    I’ll be honest, my first job out of college, had I had more life and work experience, I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did, which was only six months! it was a total bait and switch, and i didn’t know enough to read enough into it. I HATED it from day one, but stuck it out until i couldn’t take it anymore.

  23. Zandra*

    I once had a new employee come to me about halfway through his first day and informed me that he had “pooped his pants.” He just needed to go home for about an hour to clean up and change his clothes. Obviously, I wasn’t going to say no or inquire much more deeply. (No, there wasn’t any aroma that might clue me in to whether his story was true.) Needless to say, he did not return after an hour, or ever. I’ve often wondered why he didn’t just disappear midday instead of coming to me with the story first. It was unpleasant call center work, and many people didn’t make it for long.

        1. PT*

          He is probably on some subreddit somewhere, bragging about how having no shame gives him an ironclad excuse to get out of anything, and getting lots of those little reddit flair awards and upvotes for being hilarious.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Great way to get out of awkward social conversations with chatty people. “Nice to see you Bob, but I have to go poop”.

  24. UKDancer*

    I’ve had this happen. We had someone join our company and leave after 2 days. She said the job wasn’t for her and she was going back to the job she had before. It was quite annoying because it meant we had to find another person for the job but we didn’t take it personally. Sometimes people decide a job isn’t for them.

    I think the best thing to do is check the job description is clear and accurate and chalk it up to experience. Unless you think there are real problems with the work place it’s just one of those things.

    1. Momma Bear*

      You reminded me of the guy who lied in his interview and somehow thought that nothing he lied about would show up in the background check/onboarding paperwork. Yes, HR checked. No, you no longer have a job.

  25. Staff Are Valuable*

    I left during lunch on my first day of a job because all morning long I was fielding phone calls and faxes from very angry creditors. I figured there was a very good chance I was never getting paid, so I went to lunch and never came back.

    1. pope suburban*

      I sort of regret not leaving my last job like this. It was an incredibly dysfunctional organization that had me doing three jobs for the pay of 0.75 jobs, and where I was expected to put up with flat-out verbal abuse and threats from staff and clients alike. I wouldn’t have been the first person to do it, either; they’d had four or five people before me just go to lunch and never come back, or who worked one day and then noped out. In hindsight, this was the treatment they’d earned from me, but at the time, I was too broken down and honestly a little afraid of how they might retaliate. But yeah, there are some places that don’t deserve the courtesy, though I hope they’re not the majority.

    2. Chalk-Dusted Photostat*

      I’ve been at that company.

      When things really got bad, the trick to collecting your pay was being plugged-in enough to know when there was going to be a deposit to the company’s account, and showing up with your check at their bank to withdraw just after that happened.

      And yes, when we finally hired a professional bookkeeper, she walked on her first day (and no surprise! We found out later the company wasn’t paying tax withholding correctly).

  26. Baffled Teacher*

    Right after college I worked a data entry job where we were all temps. You could always tell who the new people were because they were overdressed and nervous (and strangers, lol). We used to take bets on who would come back after lunch on their first day. A LOT of people didn’t.

  27. Sara without an H*

    I haven’t had anyone quit on the first day, but I did have somebody quit within the first two weeks. He’d been offered another job on campus. At first I was annoyed, then I realized that he’d saved me the trouble of eventually firing him. (Training was not going well, to say the least.)

    OP, it’s unlikely that you did anything wrong. A review of the job description and a debrief on the onboarding process may yield some useful information. But since you say that something felt “off” about the guy as soon as he arrived for his first day, I strongly suspect that he’d just received an offer for another job that he wanted more than yours.

  28. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP, is the work that your current employee does the same as what would have been done by this new person? If so, did you ask the current employee whether they felt the job description accurately reflected the work done in that role? If you’d answer yes to the first question and no to the second, I’d suggest you do so before re-posting the job. You might find that your current employee says something like, “well, I know we SAY that our primary task is teapot-painting, but I think the way things work out, most of our actual work day is spent in the art design, since most of our orders are for custom teapots rather than for the stock designs that we can just start painting right away.”

  29. Dr. Rebecca*

    I quit on a first day once. It was a garden center, and I thought I was being hired to water plants and help customers. When it became clear that they wanted me up trees with a chainsaw, I bailed.

    I also quit on a second day, when the truck stop I was working in had me in the back room of the cafe, getting more pickles for the sandwiches, up to my elbow in ice cold pickle juice, without gloves.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      That reminds me of someone I know who is extraordinary really reliable who quit on a day 1 of a food service job. He was hired to bus tables and start learning to wait tables. He quit on the spot when the owner merged 3 bread baskets being cleared from tables, pulled out and tossed a few partial rolls, and told him to take the “new basket” out for the next customer.
      Not that our OP has done anything so egregious but it’s a story worth telling.

    2. Anon Supervisor*

      Yeah, I quit after the first day of a side gig at a very well known grocery store because of how they handled their meat case (was assigned to the meat department). I was horrified because it’s a chain I used to work at when I was in college (albeit in the Bakery, but I knew the meat department guys really well) and I just couldn’t be a part of it.

  30. rathernotsay*

    Way back in the day I was hired for an internship. Shortly after my first day I was unfortunately sexually assaulted by someone there. Immediately afterwards I quit. I was a teenager and didn’t quite handle things as well as I could have. I also didn’t tell anyone until many years later.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, and honestly, you handled the situation the way you needed to handle it. And that was the right thing to do.

    2. Alpaca Bag*

      I’m sorry this happened to you. However you handled it was right for you at that time.

    3. Ori*

      You did nothing wrong. It is incredibly common not to tell anyone when that happens, and i’m so sorry it did.

  31. Andrea McDuck*

    I did this in high school. I was hired as a cashier at a convenience store because they needed someone with prior cash register experience. On day one I was told that half of the job was cooking incredibly greasy, smelly fried chicken. I did not return for day two.

  32. J.E.*

    It sounds like the employee may have had a job they really wanted but took this one in case it didn’t come through, it did, so they quit. If that’s so, it’s still not a good way to quit. Having a new person leave because they got a better offer or the one they actually wanted happens all the time.

  33. Not A Manager*

    Is this his first in-person office job since the pandemic started? We’ve had a lot of discussion lately about transitioning back to in-person office work. If he’s been OOO for over a year, *and* he’s starting a new job, he might be having cold feet, an existential crisis, or who knows what.

    1. Anonono*

      That’s a good theory. At my workplace the official policy is that unvaccinated people must wear masks. In reality, no one does. It doesn’t take a genius to instantly realize that the policy is unobserved and unenforced. I wouldn’t blame a new hire for walking out upon realizing this.

      I have to confess I’m blasé about it and resigned to contracting a breakthrough case as the cost of keeping my job. But I can imagine someone who’s spent the last year diligently wearing a mask and social distancing would be horrified by what goes on in here.

  34. Delta Delta*

    I quit a job after 2 weeks, but I told them I was going to quit. I was a hostess at a hotel restaurant for the breakfast shift. That basically equated to getting there at 5:00 to stand around and wait for nobody to show up. It was awful.

    I also worked at a law firm where we had an assistant ghost one morning after being there a month or two. Honestly, it was annoying she waited as long as she did because it took energy to train her.

  35. Bethie*

    I work in state government, and we had a guy hired the same time as me. Multiple degrees, great experience, seemed very nice, etc. He lasted about a month and packed his stuff up at lunch without telling anyone and left. Ive been in this department for 5+ years, and its a cush gig. Not an easy job to learn but we give everyone a year to at least understand the job (saying that to say its hard but we know its hard). Funny thing is he went on to be “subject matter expert” in what we do. So I think, personally, we were a step in his career ladder that he needed to become the “expert”.

  36. John Smith*

    Please don’t beat yourself up. I once interviewed for a job which I was really excited about, but no sooner had I got to the reception area of the interviewing company, I just wanted to leave and that feeling stayed with me throughout the entire interview. Sometimes you just get a vibe about a something that doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t mean that vibe is universally felt or even “bad”. Maybe the new employee thought it would be like being in The West Wing. Maybe they didn’t like the neighbourhood or the choice of wall colour in the office. Who knows.

    Good luck in your role.

  37. Dust Bunny*

    We had a new hire at one of the vet’s offices at which I worked, who blithely told us she was only working because her parents wanted her to fill her time until her boyfriend married her. She was checked out of the job from the start: She lasted about two weeks and hardly ever worked a full day. She would go home for lunch (most of us lived nearby) and find a “reason” not to come back: She had a headache; she’d gotten in a fender-bender; her neighbor needed help; she’d heard thunder and was afraid to drive in the rain (she lived less than a mile away); her dog was sick (hello–you work for a veterinarian?).

    Sometimes people just do weird things.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      This reminds me of that episode of M*A*S*H where Klinger kept giving excuses as to why he should be out of the army, and it finally just boiled down to “half of family dying, other half pregnant”.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
        “Yes sir, Colonel Blake. I don’t deserve to be in the Army.”

        1. Robin Ellacott*

          This makes me want to watch MASH again. I’m sure I can reference some Colonel Flagg quotes in the workplace.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            They put the fun in Dysfunctional. I love the show but find myself cringing at all the targeted humor.
            Racism, sexism, misogyny, fat jokes short jokes, you name it.
            (Although adult me recently saw an episode where Trapper and Hawkeye started to pour Martini’s, one said I’ve had too many of those lately, and they *put everything back*. The rest of the episode was boozeless.)

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I love the show, and it was even progressive in parts for its time, but it is a product of its time and some elements have aged very poorly. Much other favorites (e.g. Green Acres)

              1. Dust Bunny*

                I mean, most shows age badly. There are a lot of 1990s shows I used to love that I think I won’t be rewatching.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  That’s a good point. I think it impacts comedies and comedy-hybrids more; in the past, things and people were fair game and no longer are (for the better).

  38. Bethie*

    One more comment. I am also a new manager. One of the first people I hired, I had to fire within the first week. Because she lied about having access to home internet and was sneaking into our building against COVID protocol, parking in the director’s spot!, to be able to have Wifi. I actually knew her too, prior to hiring her. At least you didnt get a text message on Thanksgiving telling you “I hope you choke on your dinner!”

    But anyway, we readjusted. We make sure we are clear about internet and work from home on the front end. We thought we were clear, but maybe we werent. Now we are.

  39. Anon today*

    I once quit a job on the first day. I thought it was a law firm job doing office work, and it turns out it was the law firm that handled all the “red light camera” tickets. You watch the video, take screenshots, find the owner, send them a letter. On my first day, the “boss” told me that they strictly monitor everyone’s computer/internet usage, absolutely no personal phone calls on the job (like, if your phone rings, you better be heading for the time clock to clock out) and that you get “three random googles per week”. I was a college grad and felt that was a stupid rule and I had better things to do with my time, so I told them at the end of the day that I wouldn’t be coming back.

  40. Kiwiapple*

    My current job is like this. I knew on my first day it wasn’t right and didn’t want to come back after the first week (I did though – it didn’t / hasn’t gotten any better and I am leaving next month).

    Reasons it wasn’t right: I’m based in a reception office (job description does not mention anything about reception duties)
    My officemate told me personal stuff about her and our boss, also about a restructure, how we could lose our jobs depending on what that restructure looked like, how awful covid was (from a country with elimination strategy) how it changed everything, the several people before me in my role…

  41. Ace in the Hole*

    I walked out on a job the first day.

    In my case it wasn’t the job… I started my first shift and found out I was stationed next to a guy I had a really scarily bad history with (like “call the cops,” kind of bad). He didn’t recognize me right away and I didn’t want to stick around to find out if he would.

  42. AZ Teacher*

    I just remembered another story from my past corporate life. We had a receptionist come in for her first day. Our former receptionist was leaving on good terms for a retail management position and would be training her. Anyway, the new receptionist called in sick the next two days and then called in and quit the day after that.

    Luckily, the former receptionist had changed her mind about leaving. When the principal told her the new employee had quit, she happily offered to stay on. He hired her to do so. If you’re keeping score, we went from old to new and then back to old. But that’s not the end of the story…

    The principal had a conversation with the new receptionist, who had quit. Turns out our old receptionist had said a bunch of horrible things to the new one, which made the new one not want to work with us. I was confronted by the agency principal (who was a total jerk who liked picking on me,) and none of the things that had been said about me or anyone else were true. Apparently, the old receptionist had changed her mind about leaving, and this was her way of keeping the gig. It was freaking Machiavellian! Needless to say, she was fired. The old new receptionist was brought back.

  43. Fuzzyfuzz*

    I quit a senior level job after 3 months recently–my boss was nice, the team was OK, but the general culture and rhythm of the place made me miserable. It was just poorly managed and there was very little respect for employee’s positions or time. From day 1, something weird would happen and I would tell myself “this has to be a one-off.” And then something similar would happen a few days later. After two months of the craziness, I realized that it was not going to get any better and cut my losses.

  44. Personhuman*

    The time I quit a new job in the first month, it was very much the job. I was warned in the hallway by a random employee to not take the offer but I was desperate and accepted anyway. The person who had hired me turned out to be the boss’s wife who had never managed anyone before and the first tasks she set me to had no instructions and she clearly felt I was doing them terribly. I scheduled a meeting with the big boss and handed him my laptop and left. No one who worked there during that one month still does.

  45. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    Our office had someone walk out within five minutes of their first day. He’d interviewed for a job at a different org in an area more geared to his interests (we’re civil, the other was criminal) and had gotten and accepted the offer that morning.

    The funny part isn’t that he bailed on his first day (though it is also very funny). The funny part is HE STILL LIVES AND WORKS IN THIS AREA, so we interact with him and his wife, who’s also a lawyer, all the time, even though it’s been years.

  46. Love WFH*

    What is the office environment like? Did he see it when he interviewed?

    I once interviewed in a perfectly pleasant conference room that was right behind the lobby. When I arrived for my first day as a manager, I found myself in a room with about 20 people at desks set right next to each other in rows. It was noisy and chaotic.

    I’d had an office with a door in my previous jobs in a similar role. I’d have been fine with a cubicle. This was awful. I didn’t leave, but I was appalled. It was very difficult to focus and get work done. It did improve over time, thank heavens.

    1. LondonLady*

      Oh yes! I once had a job interview take place in a hotel lounge – fine – then a second interview in the company offices. It was chaos, not enough desks, people making phone calls in the corridor, and no loos on that floor, you had to get a pass key to go to another floor. I did not take the job.

  47. OP*

    Thanks to everyone who has weighed in and for sharing your stories of similar things happening or possible explanations. The more distance I have, the more it is clear that this is just an unfortunate situation and not something I need to beat myself up over. The job market is in a strange place right now and there could be one hundred reasons why this didn’t work out. I appreciate all of the advice, especially about revisiting the job description to make the expectations crystal clear. I’m relisting the job this week and am on the lookout for a candidate who will stick around!

    1. whistle*

      I’m glad to hear this is where you ended up, OP. It really does sound like you are being mindful of your hiring process and that this was not about you or your team etc.

      I worked at a dysfunctional place that had it’s share of first week walk outs. Sometimes it was pretty clear why the person walked off, and other times, even though the workplace was a mess, it was clear that the reason the person walked off had nothing to do with the company. In one case, the person was an alcoholic who thought he could manage a day at work and really couldn’t. I still wonder if he ever got the help he needed.

    2. chewingle*

      I’m glad the comments have helped! His reaction was so bizarre (blocking you on LinkedIn??), if you find out what exactly happened, I’m curious to know!

  48. Teapot Repair Technician*

    I once started a job where I discovered on day 1 that the computer assigned to me (that had been used by my predecessor) was just barely capable of running the software I needed. It wouldn’t have been that great when new, and by the time I got it it was almost 10 years old.

    I didn’t quit on the spot, but it was tempting, especially knowing that my previous employer hadn’t yet filled my old position and would have welcomed me back.

  49. RJ*

    OP, I’m so sorry that this happened. Regardless of the reason, it’s extremely disconcerting when an employee leaves after only one day when so much time and consideration is expended in the hiring process.

    At my last company, a recently hired CFO left suddenly one day at lunch for no reason. As he was booked for vacation starting on the following day for a week, no one bothered checking in to see why he left and never came back. Months later, he was finally reached. He never gave a reason and he never came back.

    People leave jobs suddenly and without warning for a variety of reasons, many of which we’ll never know and even if we did, we might never understand.

    1. Anonymouse*

      If the CFO leaves for no reason and/or is booked for a vacation (out of the country?), someone should have checked all the company bank accounts as your first priority. What happened to the CFO is your second priority.

      1. RJ*

        His vacation was definitely out of the country as he was due to stop by our London office and never did (obviously). I wasn’t employed there at the time this happened, but checking the accounts NEVER occurred to anyone during his MIA week. That itself should have been a red flag to me for other ways this company did not self audit itself.

  50. Radio Girl*

    This happened to me once. It was a receptionist job, shared with another person. I wasn’t completely sold on the person the boss pushed me to hire. She quit after one day and we hired a much friendlier, more efficient person.

    Don’t take it personally.

  51. Ozzie*

    While I would never do this, in retrospect, there are some places where I wish I had… they had enough red flags – but I was never apathetic going into them, like it sounds like this guy was.

    I don’t think it had anything to do with LW or the training. Unless it becomes a pattern, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You do have a story now, though!

  52. JohannaCabal*

    I’m leaning toward he got another offer.

    Another possibility, on his first day, did you mention anything about him completing a background check form? I’ve heard too many stories of employees who’ve been been pulled out of training or barely made it their first week because something came up on their background check.

  53. Hiring Mgr*

    Having been around the block a few times, I would say it’s a 1% chance this had anything to do with the role being different and 99% he got another offer, counter offer from previuos job, etc.

  54. You Are Not Alone*

    I feel for you OP! I had worked really hard to fill a role on my team that we desperately needed, found a great candidate on the opposite coast (which was fine, we had an office there), hired them, had a start date…. And on the day they were supposed to start, at 9am my time (6am their time) I got a call from them saying they couldn’t take the role. I am sure I asked what happened but I don’t remember any meaningful response. I was stunned. The person who quit before they even started is still infamous six years later.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I remember years back my mum was hiring for a role, hired some guy, and then on the day he was due to start he got his WIFE to ring up saying he’d accepted another job.

  55. ElleKay*

    “Dear Ex-New-Employee,

    I’m sorry to hear that the position was other than what you expected! Can you tell me what was different? Any feedback will be very helpful and appreciate for the next round of hiring.”

    99% sure that “the job was different” was a polite excuse for either my old company counter offered/another offer came through/personal disaster but if it isn’t you should ask them for what was different. They still may not respond but a reasonable, polite/professional request for data does open up the door in case there was something on your end.

  56. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    I’ll bet you anything he got another offer in the meantime and decided he’d show up his first day and then quit. Sometimes people don’t handle things as well as they could (for example, it would have been better for him to just let you know ahead of time that he changed his mind). It probably had nothing to do with you or your effectiveness. Sometimes, you just don’t have any control over the situation. Give yourself a break, dust yourself off, and move forward with hiring someone else. I’ll bet it will turn out even better in the end!

  57. Sparkles McFadden*

    I seriously doubt it had anything to do with you or your onboarding process LW.

    Whenever I have seen this happen (and it happens more often than you’d think), it was because the person didn’t really want the job in the first place. The old job made a counter offer, the candidate’s first choice came through with a job offer…something like that.

  58. AnotherSarah*

    Question: In this situation (new employee quits on day one, or even in first week), would you then have to answer the “why did the last person in this role leave” question about this guy, or the previous employee? If the former (which would be the honest answer), how would you frame it?

    1. Mental Lentil*

      No, I wouldn’t consider him to be “the last person in this role”. That question implies the last person who performed this role. He couldn’t really perform much in a day, or even a week.

      Honestly, if somebody doesn’t tell me why they’re leaving after only a day, I have to assume it’s something with them and not with us, unless I’m working at a very dysfunctional organization.

  59. Mental Lentil*

    I can’t find it right now, but there’s a great meme about a guy who got a job at a software company, fixed a bug on his first day that he’d been complaining about as a customer for several years, and then gave his two week notice. I like that kind of energy.

  60. La Triviata*

    Years ago, the place I still work had a new director who stayed long enough to collect his first paycheck, went out to lunch … and was never heard from again. I think the head person (or his assistant) tried to track him down to find out what happened, but I never knew.

    And at a previous job, a young woman was hired for a clerical position. Her parents were friends of the head person and they had gotten him to hire her. Well, I was responsible for teaching her about the office network, how to use some of our specialized programs. Turned out that (1) she didn’t want the job, her parents had forced her to take it and (2) she didn’t know how to type and had no interest in learning. After a short time of working there (sort of – she’d turn up but didn’t really do anything) she just disappeared. Once it became obvious she wasn’t coming back, they hired someone to take the job.

    1. Nanani*

      Excellent exhibit for the “Parents stay out of your offspring’s job hunt” files.

  61. Reeny*

    Sometimes it IS the place/people/job. Many years ago, I got a job at a marketing agency as their second proofreader. The other proofreader was much older and seasoned and seemed to appreciate the extra help. On my third day there, one of the design managers started complaining in front of both of us proofreaders, along with her manager and mine that “the proofreaders” were being too slow and needed to pick up the pace on projects. Uhm, hello, I was standing right there! (Reminder: This was my third day on the job.) A few days later, she pulled me into an office to apologize about her behavior … and then proceeded to tell me that she really wasn’t THAT way and that she knew from day one that we were going to have a great friendship. *GAG* Yeah … I only managed two weeks and then quit without extra notice. I felt bad leaving the other lady in a lurch, but I wasn’t going to deal with that. (They may have thought I was too thin-skinned, or whatever, but I don’t care. I have dignity.)

  62. Incognito for this one*

    I just did this! I left a good job for what I thought was my dream job. After accepting and putting in my notice that’s when all the real details about the time commitment came out, which did not match what I was told in the interview process. I thought, ok, it’s my dream and it’s more money so I’ll make it work. Then I walked in on Day 1, was treated pretty rudely, and got confirmation from the guy I was replacing that what I was seeing and feeling was accurate. The actual job did not match the description, they only care about butts in seats and not actual productivity, the office had been a Covid hotbed because they didn’t take it seriously and also thought there’s no possible way you could be working unless you were at your desk in the office, and no one seemed to care about or want work-life balance. I quit on Day 5 once I got something else lined up.

  63. LadyOfShalott*

    I have done this 3 times. The first two were with two different employers where my bosses yelled at me the first day. The last, after explicitly asking about a flexible schedule in the interviewing process and being assured that they could work with me on that, the manager stated the first day that there was no flexibility in hours before admitting that he’d lied to me in the interview process, as well as lied to me about what the organization did and what I’d be doing for them.

    1. crazy4cats*

      Oh, no! I’m not sure whether I’d be speechless or want to rip him a new one for lying to me. I mean, really! Who stays with a self-admitted liar for a boss?

    2. Lana Kane*

      Are you able to more or less say what they said the job was, vs what it actually was? I’m super curious!

  64. JD*

    I’ve left jobs after a single day because:
    – they had such poor cash handling practices it was only a matter of time before there was a theft incident, and I didn’t want to be tarred with that kind of suspicion
    – I heard a racist joke within seconds of entering the workplace

    A thing that would make me do exactly what your employee did:
    – I saw someone from the company, or a company account, post something vile on social media right before I arrived

    1. JD*

      Oh, also, if no one was wearing masks, or if maskless employees were being tolerated, or if public health precautions weren’t being taken seriously, I’d also leave on the first day.

  65. crazy4cats*

    When I started in the tech field, I took a contracting job working the helpdesk with a regional health insurance company. My first nope was when they toured me through the basement into the call center area. I intensely dislike being in basements and anything without windows for full-time hours. It was the kind of basement with exposed pipes, equipment running, and the ambient temperature much too hot. The offices themselves were furnished like an office with desk walls, carpet, equipment, etc., so that was good.

    The first four hours, I listened to my trainer teach me the ropes while complaining nonstop about all the terrible things at the company. The kicker for me was when he told me they’d had an enormous flood with water that went up the walls and that the company failed to replace the carpeting or the wall treatments. I went outside during lunch and called the recruiter who got me the placement. I told her they’d had floods and failed to replace the carpeting, that it smelled mouldy, and that I was allergic to mold (I wasn’t) and couldn’t return. Even though I felt somewhat weird and self-conscious, I knew it was the right decision to not take a job in a moldy basement, no windows, and bad management to boot.

  66. NotSoAnon*

    I’ve found when I’m onboarding new employees for the more entry level positions that I would rather they quit/resign earlier rather than later.

    We once had a woman start who did the whole first week of onboarding and training, left at lunch and never returned. When HR finally got a hold of her she stated the position was harder than she imagined and she had accepted the back up position she was waiting on.

    I’ve also had to let people go in the first two weeks because they just aren’t getting it. Interviews can only gain so much information and some people are very good at interviewing. It’s better to rip the bandaid off early than wait and hope for massive improvement and understanding of concepts. We work in financial customer service. So it’s not crazy difficult and I can teach the hard skills like financial literacy, how to use the software, ticketing systems, etc but it’s much more difficult to modify soft skills unless the person is VERY motivated. So if you can’t display empathy and conversational phone skills then I really can’t keep them on. Of course a lot of jobs take a lot longer to learn. If I was going to train my replacement it would probably take 2-3 months just due to institutional knowledge and process documentation.

  67. El l*

    This was totally on the employee. We had a similar situation where a very talented guy we hired lasted exactly a week. My boss’ way of letting him know it was on him way to say, “Just remember that this industry is a small world. Don’t get in the habit of doing this.”

    (Doesn’t sound like you’ll get the chance to talk with him any further, though. And agree with the suggestion above to show it to a complete outsider and see if they can describe the job)

  68. MicrobioChic*

    I am reminded of my last job, where when I came in for my second day several of my coworkers “joked” that they were shocked I was still there.

    In retrospect I definitely should have figured out how toxic that place was sooner.

  69. Lauren19*

    Based on this letter I’m 99% certain this guy left for reasons that have nothing to do with you or your company. But like Allison said, it’s worth reviewing. I’d also look at what other experiences he had that day. Did he read about your COVID protocols prior to Day 1 only to see them not enforced? Did he overhear a conversation that got him questioning the company’s values? Worth examining.

  70. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I strongly suspect the guy got a better offer elsewhere, especially since he was acting strangely from the beginning. Almost every situation I know of where someone quit on their first day involves fast food, landscaping, retail, etc – it’s almost unheard of in a professional office environment. Even if something legitimately gave him a bad feeling about the company, he’s already quit his last job. I had a bad feeling about my last job in the first week, and I really regret that I gave the company a chance rather than continuing to job-hunt, but it would have been career and financial suicide if I had just quit with nothing lined up.

  71. RosyGlasses*

    Oh man, I totally want to make our new hires write a deeply moving poem their first week! (jk – it’s just a flabbergasted reaction to that story!)

  72. Just @ me next time*

    This is a great argument for creating an eligibility list during hiring. That is, a shortlist of qualified candidates who aren’t your top choice but you would still be okay with hiring. In my organization, I think the eligibility lists stay valid for about six months, so if the same position opens up within those six months (if new hire doesn’t work out, new hire takes a leave of absence, someone else in exactly the same role quits, you get funding to hire another body, etc.), you can just offer to the next person on the list without running another competition.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I like this a lot. I’m interviewing candidates right now, and I’d be happy hiring any of the people who made it to the final round.

  73. Robin Ellacott*

    It just happens sometimes. Good to think about whether there is anything to try differently, but chances are this is a specific to the candidate issue.

    We’ve had this happen twice… not the first day but in the first weeks.
    One turned out to be suddenly moving to another country to live with her dad (she is an adult but we later learned through the local grapevine that she was from a fabulously wealthy family and had accepted several jobs only to immediately lose interest over the last few years). Of course none of these brief jobs were on her resume or mentioned by her references.

    The other just seemed increasingly stressed by the work, which was exactly as described, but I think he overestimated his ability to deal with some of the challenges involved.

    My colleague who used to work in warehouse/logistics said it was common for candidates to ghost on their first day or not show up for the next shift. The work was arduous and similar jobs were plentiful.

  74. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I once took a job and found out the candidate they first chose worked a week, and left a voice mail the next Mon. saying she wouldn’t be back. I thought, if she’d been interviewing, she might have gotten a better offer after accepting the job. But after a few days on the job myself, I wonder. It was a horrible place with high turnover, and the boss rode an atomic broom. I wish I’d been in a position to do what my predecessor did. I was applying for other jobs in about 5-6 months. My boss beat me to the punch and invented a “reason” to fire me. Afterward one of the lawyers told me Boss wanted me gone because I was so good she was afraid I’d take her job one day. For the previous several years, no one had stayed a full year in that job.

  75. A Feast of Fools*

    I once took a job that I thought, based on the description and the interview with the owner and her team, I would really like. Close to home, casual dress, B2B sales (which I’d already been doing).

    I showed up on the first day and. . . it just felt “off”.

    Heck, *I* felt off.

    It’s like nothing fit. I was uncomfortable, they were awkward, things were… clunky-feeling. I have no idea how to explain just how *wrong* all of it felt.

    I went home at lunch and never went back. I did, at least, call the owner near the end of my lunch hour and let her know I wouldn’t be coming back. All I could say was, “I don’t think I’m a good fit.”

    To this day I honestly don’t know if it was them or me (or both) who was “off”.

    If I’d stuck it out for a week or two, maybe it would have been fabulous. Maybe it would have been a house of evil bees. No idea. I just knew that I had to get out of there, and quickly. And that could have 100% been my brain lying to me.

  76. Bastet*

    I agree with Alison that OP may never know the real reason, and based on the fact set provided it would appear it has nothing to do with the job at all. From personal experience, I had one job that I quit after a day because I walked in and everyone was absolutely miserable. The environment was so terrible that there was no way I could go back. The other time I went to leave my job and at the last hour (once they realized that I was actually leaving) they made such a great counter offer it would have been foolish to refuse. At that point, it was the day before my 2 weeks were up, but I did let the other job know what happened. Money does talk.

  77. Jen*

    I once left a college food service job after one shift and never returned or called. I was nineteen and far too afraid to tell them why.

    I got the job based on my experience as a nursing home dietary aide. I learned, on my first shift working in the cafeteria, that my nursing home was held to a MUCH HIGHER cleanliness standard than the cafeteria. I had been able to deal with sandwiches in the blender for non chewing elderly folks. But I could not stomach sinks full of fruit-fly clouds, super-sticky floors, or watching a manager dip his hand, elbow-deep, in a vat of ranch dressing to retrieve his scoop.

    I just couldn’t, at nineteen, figure out how to tell someone to their face that their business grossed me out that much. And I couldn’t figure out what else to tell them to explain why I’d never show up again. Now, I’d probably “white lie” some kind of family emergency.

  78. Chocolate Teapot*

    A new employee was due to start and she was (at the time) a non-EU national, so there was additional paperwork and delays to get her work permit. I mention this because, under the terms of freedom of movement, had she been an EU national, the employment process would have proceeded more quickly.

    A couple of weeks after starting, she handed in her notice “for personal reasons”, as her partner was moving to another country. They had already re-located long distance!

  79. Lord Voldemort of Dance*

    In my previous job, my immediate predecessor had quit in 5 days. The guy before him quit in 3. (I wasn’t aware of this when I took the job.) I don’t know the exact reason, but I’m betting it’s that the place had a 2-day-a-week contractor, “Ned,” with one of the worst grooming habits I’ve known. I actually suspected Ned was homeless because he’d come in wearing the same button-down with sweat stains accumulating tree ring-like. (He wasn’t.) Ned would come in during hot weather with that shirt translucent with sweat, and our AC would just suck all that reeking moisture out of the fabric into the small office where I’d be trapped with him and 3 other guys, only one of whom bathed, laundered, washed his hair, and behaved like a polite adult. Ned’s BO was so bad I wrenched muscles in my throat gagging, but infosec prevented me from opening the doors for airflow. He had long, dirt caked nails that I once saw him chewing off one by one. This was an office. An office. I stayed a year due to sheer grit or bloody-mindedness.

  80. LondonLady*

    OP I am sure it’s him not you, and even if he decided the role / organisation was not for him, that doesn’t make it your fault. Arguably it’s better he quit now rather than waste your time and energy being a bad fit in the job. It does happen. I spent several years as a team leader in a public affairs firm that represented private sector clients to municipal and government agencies. A standard part of our induction was for new hires to contribute to our internal list of contacts ie people we know in public agencies that we could speak to if needed. One guy who’d been brilliant at interview refused to complete that task and quit on his first day, calling us unethical (we weren’t). As this was literally what our firm did, he must have known. Perhaps he thought he’d just be presenting to other folks’ contacts…

  81. Andy*

    We had this happen. Management could not comprehend it, but to be honest I thought that the person just picked up on what the work really is and was smart. I definitely would not want to be at that position, internal people would do a lot to avoid it.

  82. Banana phone*

    I left a job after my first shift once. I barely remember, it was a long time ago, what it was supposed to be. But I found out when I got there that I was supposed to be able to transfer an elderly lady with mental impairment who couldn’t weight bear. And I vaguely remember there was no training either on how to do it. I do remember calling the manager, freaking out, and leaving.

  83. Art3mis*

    I’ve wanted to twice and kind of wish I had. Once I was hired to work in an office but on my first day learned that they wanted me to help out with patient care. I was not trained in that and they didn’t want to train me on it either, they just expected it. Second one wasn’t so bad the first few days but then the lady that was going to be training me came back from PTO. She seemed nice at first but then revealed that she would show me half of a task and yell at me for not knowing the other half. Took me almost a year to find something new. In both situations I needed the money and couldn’t just quit no matter how much I wanted.

  84. Captain of the No Fun Department*

    OP what are your employee policies like? Is it all industry standard?

    I ask because I once went through several rounds of interviews for a job in an industry I had worked in for a decade. I was told many things that aligned with what I expected out of that industry (lots of flexibility in schedule, social activities, high involvement management, paid lunches, very informal dress code). When I showed up, I found out that the owner tracked bathroom breaks (in length and frequency), no chit chat between colleagues was permitted, everyone was expected to dress in business attire despite not being a client facing office, lunches were unpaid and timed to the minute, it was a dictatorship (ie. Not high involvement). It was so shocking to me that I tried to quit the next day, but was convinced to stay by one amazing executive who actually believed things should change. Spoiler alert: he was wrong and it was a miserable experience. He and I quit on the same day.

    Is there any possibility that your workplace is like that?

  85. irene adler*

    I find it interesting that employers would like a reason/explanation for why the new hire left so suddenly (so that they can better understand how to make things easier for the next hire), yet when candidates want reasons for not being hired, hey, not something they should expect. And yet the candidate simply wants to improve themselves to be a better candidate for the next job opportunity.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I don’t think those are analogous. Not hiring a candidate is analogous to the candidate refusing a job offer, and I don’t think employers feel entitled to a reason for someone declining a job.

      Quitting on the first day is analogous to being fired on the first day – and yes, I do think an employee would be quite within their rights to want to know why they showed up to work and were walked off the premises.

  86. OceanDiva*

    I’ve left a job within 3 weeks because my dream job was offered during that time (and it followed-through on that promise), but I did not leave as gracefully as I would have today, giving <2 week notice. I've also been at a job (didn't quit this one) where on day 1, at my first team meeting, a senior VIP who everybody adored said something stereotyping and casually racist that was shocking and offensive (to me) and could see something like that as a warning that the organization is not for me, on day 1.

  87. not working there anymore*

    Oh, if only I had quit a certain job on my first day. Or first week, after my manager had a tantrum. Or maybe after she told me that all of the exciting projects I would be working on weren’t even in the planning stage yet. I quit after about 18 months of tantrums and abuse. Oh, and she was working towards a PhD in management.

  88. 1000*

    I think Alison is right: it likely had nothing to do with you. I think she’s given some great advice as well.

    I know someone who quit a new job they worked incredibly hard to get in the first week. It was because she realised that someone she never, ever wanted to see again worked for the same company, but in a different department. It had nothing to do with her own manager, team or even the job. She just couldn’t bear to be in a building with this other person.

    In the OP’s situation, my money would be on the ex-employee having received really bad personal news, having received another job offer he couldn’t turn down for financial or other reasons, or perhaps even something like finding out that someone he never wanted to see again worked for the company (or something similar that would mean he and the person he didn’t want to see again would likely end up crossing paths).

    I really feel for you, OP, because you sound like a great manager. There are plenty of awful managers out there who never have this happen, and they probably deserve it. You definitely don’t.

  89. uh*

    One left at my office the first week . . . he said he couldn’t bring his gun to work and it was not safe.

    It was an office, no public allowed. .

  90. bopper*

    My daughter’s office just had two new employees go through a week of training and then decline to continue. I suspect they thought “This is what I have to put up with for $13 hour?”

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