By: Brenda James, Managing Director of Clayton Services, a leading Houston area staffing service
“I know it’s my first day, but I’m going to resign. These people are nuts!” That was a recent conversation I had with a former client/friend on his first day at his new job. Recently riffed, it took “John” several long weeks to find a new position. The current economic situation along with falling oil prices had taken their toll on his job search and had left him a little stunned and scared. John is a competent, well respected manager who is heavily recruited and has never really had to look for a job.
The onboarding process left a lot to be desired as there was confusion about his hours. They were never discussed in the interview and the company was not flexible. There was no orientation or training plan, except for the one that left John being trained by the demoted, somewhat disgruntled employee he was replacing. That employee also declined to give up his office until he felt John was properly trained. This left John searching for a desk to plug in his used, sticky, company assigned laptop that only worked when plugged in. The final straw was when a member of the senior management team told John that he, “liked to spy on his employees to catch them doing something wrong”. He also offered John advice, encouraging him “to be sure to let his employees know he was the boss.” All this on the first day? Wow.
I wanted to shout, run for the hills, but prudence held me back. This was, after all, a well-known, Fortune 500 company offering good pay and benefits. There was also a family to feed, a mortgage to pay and no other offers on the horizon. So instead we talked about sacrifice. After discussing his options, he decided that sticking it out and designing a game plan might be a better option than bailing. That was several months ago and while sure that he will not be there long term, as the corporate culture leaves a lot to be desired, some of the issues were resolved and he is learning new skills to further his career and take to his next position. John also learned that he is stronger than he thought and he can persevere.
Then there’s “Jane”. “We need to talk. I think coming here was a big mistake.” Uh-oh. Another phone call from a client/friend. Jane had gone as far as she could in her role with her previous company. She left on good terms and quickly found another position offering her the more strategic role that she felt was the necessary next step to advance her career. Unfortunately, Jane’s new boss saw her role as much more transactional. Jane also never dreamed that she would not be able to attend industry meetings or take time off for a sick child without being chastised. The morale in the company was bad and the management style was dictatorial. Very high fear, low trust. As a single mom, she too felt the need to sacrifice and stick it out, hoping to affect some culture change. After several months, her mental and physical health wore out and she and her boss agreed on a time frame for her transition out of the company. She is looking for her next opportunity.
John hadn’t done a lot of research. He was contacted by the company recruiter and had a short interview with his direct supervisor. A quick offer was made and he accepted a role he felt comfortable and competent in performing. He was relieved his job search was over. John hadn’t seen any red flags and expected things to fall into place as usual.
Jane was glad she found her position so quickly and was excited to get started. She had checked the company out on Glassdoor. While she knew morale was bad, she hoped she would be able to affect positive change in her new “strategic” role. She brushed aside her concerns, opting to concentrate on the new challenges and opportunities.
John and Jane found some silver linings in their circumstances, but both agree that they’ve mostly learned to do their research before making their next career move.
This could be a story about many things, including corporate cultures that resemble a Dilbert cartoon, however this is a cautionary tale about doing a little homework and research before jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Do Additional Research - In addition to the basic research, website, products, etc., add these to your research on the company.
Use your Network - Call anyone you know that might have a connection with or information about the company.
Ask Questions - Know your deal breakers in addition to what trade-offs you can accept.
Pay attention to the vibe you get when you are at the company. Look at the employees and how they interact. Are people friendly and engaging or dejected and deflated? Companies have personalities. There’s always an energy or lack of one. Key in and observe.
Finally, talk with a trusted advisor and don’t ignore red flags or nagging doubts you encounter during the process. Research and explore them to increase your chances of not getting burned in your next job.