Has this happened to you? You hire a new employee and they are doing great! They are eager, competent and picking up on the work really quickly. You like working with them and things seem to be going great! Then, in your three month review meeting with the employee, they mention that they are really struggling with the adjustment to their new position. They are overwhelmed with information and are feeling inadequate. They thought it would get better once they settled in but they are finding that they are really tired and feeling a little burned out. They are in fact, re-considering their choice to take the position and feel that they may need to leave.
So what do you do?
Well, first of all, know that this is very common with new employees! The first few months on a job involves so many new things – a new schedule, a lot of new learning, a new boss which can create a feeling of being on display and evaluated all the time, meeting new people, having lots of new details to remember, it is frankly exhausting! So it is common for new employees, especially those who want to do a good job and may have some perfectionist tendencies, to really give it their all during this period and that is just not sustainable. So, as time goes on they feel more and more tired and start to question if the job is something they can do. In positions that have a big learning curve, the feelings of inadequacy can be even stronger as the employee can feel like they have forgotten everything they knew coming in, never mind remembering all the new stuff they have been told since they started!
What tends to work in this situation is to first acknowledge what is going on for the person. Acknowledge all that they have learned and all that they have been adjusting to. This helps to normalize how they are feeling. Then, take a break from new learning. Give the employee time to adjust and settle. Take a couple of weeks off from anything new or from changing things for the person. Settle on a schedule if it is changing all the time. No new projects for a bit. No new videos to watch or books to read. No new responsibilities. The employee is fatigued from the newness of everything so giving time to the situation and letting them settle in so that things start to feel less new will be helpful. Keep up the reinforcement that they are doing a good job and that they are meeting expectations. If they employee feels that the only way to do a good job is to always be doing something new, that is a lot of pressure and also exhausting! So, continue to reinforce that good performance is happening on a daily basis within their regular job.
When I was responsible for employee orientation in a technology company, we started employees with a 3 day orientation workshop that involved the sharing of a lot of information. I would end that session by telling them that there were some things that they could expect to happen over the next few months – and some of these things were not easy! For example, I would tell them that they would sometimes feel overwhelmed, that they would be more tired than normal, that they would question their abilities at times and that they would probably get sick. This is all typical of joining a fast paced company that involves a very large learning curve, regardless of the position you are in. So, I encouraged them to talk to their manager if they were feeling any of these things, to get more sleep that normal and to take care of themselves to ward off getting sick. I wanted them to feel normal – to know that this happens to everyone that joins the company – and that everyone lives through it and they will too! Was there a better way for us to orient employees – probably – but at least talking about it helped in the short term!
What about your orientation process? What are you doing to help new employees balance all the new learning in their first few months on the job?