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November 13, 2006

At First Sight

You usually know it isn't going to be love at first sight--or should I say handshake--when  you start a new job, so if you're not immediately ensconced in a VIP lounge with an open bar, it's forgivable (though hardly preferable). But, the immediate shuttle to HR, before meeting with the people or person who hired you, is off-putting, and, so I was wondering, is it antiquated, too?

Is there any greater way to emphasize what a boring, dry job it'll be, full of non-ending drudgery, than first dragging the newbie through a laundry list of policies and prohibitions?  The level of dullness is typified by what I considered the highlight of a previous orientation: the little colored, block-size photos of all the executives in the company's organization chart. That's as crazy as it got. Stimulating only because the rest was literally in black and white.

One company I heard about in a recent interview with a vendor selling video-rich e-learning content (see Training Today in December) uses streaming video to introduce newcomers to the executives they likely (maybe if they're lucky) will never meet, but I get the impression that's not what most new employees across industries experience. The vendor rep I spoke with said, though costly, the company thought it worthwhile to invest in the program due to the numbers of workers who would partake of it, and, much more importantly, that it would form their first impression of the people behind their direct deposit receipts.

Speaking of first impressions, you ought to monitor your HR associates more closely. At the same job with the almost wholly black/white intro, my HR contact informed me in a letter that I shouldn't come to work on the first day until 9:30 (a.m., at least). A die-hard non-morning person, I was thrilled, but nervous enough that I called and verified that she hadn't really meant 9 sharp. A girl after my own heart, that's exactly what she meant because it gave her time to get settled before my demanding arrival. When I told a friend, she thought it strange. She didn't say so, but it seemed as if she thought the later-than-usual start time meant I was joining a slacker organization. Again, that was fine with me, but still...

Then, there's the guidance the staff the new hire will be joining sometimes needs. Years into my employment there I jokingly would refer to my "Welcome Lunch" as my "Un-Welcome Lunch." I remember making jokes nobody laughed at, at least one definitely unfriendly remark and a brusque, back-to-me (boss walking well ahead of me), "Well, that's you're welcome lunch." Being more than a little kooky myself, I didn't mind the treatment that much. I thought of it as a sign of an unpretentious, honest work environment. But, what if I had been one of those sensitive types you're bound to cope with sooner or later?

Most often there's no romance to your first day at a new job, but a brief honeymoon is nice. The people who'll dig like thorns under your skin over the next several years should be able to fake, at least for the first nine hours or so,  they're glad you didn't take that job circling the earth in orbit instead.

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