Saturday, March 8, 2014

What a Brand New Employee Needs from You Most

I’ll tell anyone who asks that I’m a proud cynic.

The definition of “cynic” varies slightly from dictionary to dictionary, but most say something along the lines of “distrustful or scornful of others’ motives,” and I think that’s a little harsh. I prefer to define my worldview as a pragmatic recognition that most people will most of the time behave so as to further their self-interests.

And I don’t consider pursuit of self-interest terribly shocking or awful, either, because for most of us pursuing what we want is not incompatible with living peaceably with others.

Frankly, I think the world could use a few more good cynics. At least then email messages like the following would produce fewer victims.

(This appeared in my inbox today, and I left ALL the typos in for authenticity.)


Congratulation,You have won yourself Us$1,500,000.00 from our database for using western union money transfer. I?m very glade in informing today that all necessary arrangement in effecting the payment to you as it have been programmed $4,000.00,USD in your payment file.All you need to do now:
Reconfirm your information to enable us make change of the RECEIVER'S NAME to your name,so you can be able to pick it up now.
Your Name:===========
Your Country:========
Your Tel:============
However: this is to inform you that we have been carrying on your payment as to enable us make sure that the payment have be complete before the year will come at the end.
Your first payment of $4,000.00, USD is already been Programmed into System.We only give you six digital number instead of Ten for security reason avoid hackers stealing the money online.When i receive your Informations i will release the remaining Four to enable you pick it up.
{MTCN}Control Number:869440xxxx
AMOUNT: $4,000
Waiting for your information to make change of RECEIVER'S NAME to your name and release your MTCN to enable you pick up the fund.
Rev.Favor Ralph

Good grief.

But even I, an unabashed cynic, believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt until doing so proves unwise.

And when it comes to your brand new employee, bestowing the benefit of the doubt is especially important.

I’m talking about trust, people. I’m talking about treating your new employee as though you sincerely believe in his ability to competently do the job you hired him to do without an inordinate amount of oversight, double-checking, and second guessing from you.

Naturally a new employee will make mistakes (as will any employee, actually), but mistakes are how we learn. Mistakes, and the unpleasant feeling of failure, make lessons penetrate.

My good friend and consultant Helen Richardson has developed a coaching model called A New Way to Think about Work™, in which she proposes that work is a relationship. And it is.

So trust me when I tell you that treating your new employee as though you aren’t sure you made the right decision in hiring him is not a good start to the relationship.

That’s why whenever I teach anyone anything, I show him once, and then I leave him to do it. If, after reviewing his efforts the work is good, I congratulate him and move on. If the efforts are less than good, and I need to teach something again, I’ll do it. But my goal is always to show once and move on. It’s efficient, and it sends the message that I trust the learner’s ability to learn.

At some point, no matter how new your employee is or how much you perceive him as not knowing, you’ll have to relinquish control or risk compromising your new hire’s performance as his confidence wanes and his frustration grows—and that’s if he even decides to stick around.

So here’s the question you may want to ask yourself. What bad thing do you think will happen if you trust your employee to do the job without your constant supervision? And, how do you suppose your lack of trust is making your new employee feel about you and his new job? Do you think it causes him to trust you?


  1. OMGoodness. I had this very same exit conversation a few weeks with a former employer. Because he has opted to stay in the 1980's micro-management mode, he completely turned me off. Can control freaks ever learn to control themselves and inspire others?

    1. First, I'm sorry the job didn't work out. In my experience, that's always a disappointment of sorts. Second, control freaks are on a continuum. Some can learn to give up some control, but others are hopeless. And when a control freak is also mean-spirited, well ... watch out.

      What makes things really tough is when a boss wants to manage all the details. He or she not only sets the standard but wants to control all aspects of the process. It's ridiculous, inefficient, and often a duplication of effort.

      Thanks for commenting, and good luck with whatever the future holds!

  2. I firmly believe that as Supervisors or Managers of People 51% of our responsibility is keep our staffs in the right frame of mind. We can not just bring a new person on board, train them and then turn them loose without visiting weekly what is working and not working. Sometimes one encouraging statement to someone can make all the difference in the world. You walk up to John and say "John your doing a great job, what you do really makes a difference". What does that do for John today and moving forward and how long did that take to make that positive influence in John. We hire for the moment, We Train and Develop for the Future.

    1. Hi Bruce, I totally agree with you about being encouraging. I will disagree with you a little, however, about being "turned loose." Personally, I like being "turned loose" to find my own way, so long as I know where to find my manager when I need him. That said, weekly check ins are good. Weekly check UPS (as in "I'm not sure XYZ is doing anything, let me check up on her") are awful.

  3. Love the honesty. Some of what we might see as distrust is really anxiety from managers about whether or not they did make the right hiring decision. There is no getting away from that. Hopefully, the interview, hiring and vetting process was effective enough for the employee to know if they are coming on board with a micro manager and for the manager to know whether or not the employee will be a good fit for the organizational culture.

    Marcia @ The HBCU Career Center

    1. Hi Marcia. I think you're right about the anxiety part. Unfortunately, some people deal with their anxiety by trying to dump it on others, though. Not good.