Take the Bite out of New Hire Remorse


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“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” ~Stephen Wright

Almost every person in a leadership capacity that I’ve had the honor to work with has, at one time, hired or inherited a new employee. At first there is usually a honeymoon phase.  You’re excited to have an energetic new player on your team; the employee is constantly smiling because they are trying to make a great impression and demonstrate their eagerness.  Yet after a few weeks, you may start to have some questions.  The questions may sound something like this:

  • Did I make the correct hiring decision
  • Is this really the type of employee I want on my team
  • How can I coach this employee so they reach their potential
  • Why can’t this employee be more like the one I had before
  • When will they “get it”
  • They whine so much…what’s wrong with them
  • Didn’t I already tell them how to do this
  • Why do they keep saying, “Well, at my last job, we did it this way….”
  • Why do they require my constant attention
  • Did they hit their 90-days yet

These are just the tip of the iceberg.  Positions of leadership are challenging.  When leaders do not take the time to coach, they turn into strong managers but weak coaches.  They are able to get many tasks done, but lack the substance and confidence to help develop their employees.  They have to micro-manage. They also may get frustrated with newer employees which can lead to misunderstandings and under-performance. This leads to employees who are uncertain of their value, and may become disengaged or difficult to manage later in their employment.

I am a new puppy owner.  Look at all those questions above and you get a clear picture of my life today.  I haven’t had a puppy in 12 years!  Last night I took the leap and became the owner of Bella…aka The Spawn of Satan.  Bella is a Newfoundland puppy.  I’ve never owned a Newfoundland puppy.  I’m sure Bella is like every other puppy in the world…but I forgot about what puppies are really like once you get past their cuteness. Say it with me…”High Maintenance”.

So far…all of the above questions have applied to my decision to get this puppy.  And since the Newfoundland breed is a “working breed”, that’s almost a literal statement!  I’ve had Bella in my possession fewer than 24 hours.  I’m already looking at the “return policy”…and then she does something cute.

Having a new employee is similar to having a puppy.  But at least your employees can locate the appropriate restroom on their own.  I’m questioning every brain cell that went into the idea that this puppy was the right one for me.  Once you make the decision to hire an employee, they deserve and require all of your leadership skills in order to reach their highest potential.  Challenging?  YES.  Aggravating?  YES.  Time consuming?  YES.  Worth the effort?  YES! (if they’re potty trained).

Coaching your new employee will reap rewards, but not necessarily right away.  They will have their moments of brilliance; yet ultimately will need your guidance and attention to develop to their fullest potential.

Some quick tips on adapting to, and coaching a new employee:

1. Praise, praise and more praise: Recognize their efforts and don’t hold out for perfection before letting them hear a good word from you.  The first time they take initiative, even if it doesn’t quite work out, praise what they did well and coach them towards improvement.  This may sound like:

YOU: “Sally, I’m impressed that you took the initiative to help that customer.”

SALLY: “But I felt really nervous and wasn’t sure I fully answered their questions.”

YOU: “My expectation right now is that you find opportunities to learn.  You just demonstrated that you can easily build rapport with customers. Very impressive. What questions did they ask that you thought were challenging?”

2. Pay attention and be patient: What are they doing well?  Where do they need support?  What will you do to provide them with the support they need? Have patience with mistakes made early in their tenure. Focus on the positive and redirect the negative. If you expect mistakes, you won’t be shocked when they make one. How you respond to their mistake will determine whether or not they learn from it.

3. Provide tools for success: My new motto: you can never have enough chew toys.  People have different learning styles. The primary three learning styles are: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (“hands on”).  Make sure to incorporate all styles into your coaching approach.  For example: show them how it’s done (visual); tell them how it’s done (auditory); allow them time to practice/demonstrate their understanding of how it’s done (kinesthetic).  Lather, rinse and repeat steps 1 and 2.

4. Be consistent: They are in a brand new environment.  The more consistent you are with the expectations, the easier it will be for them to adapt and grow.  You must be consistent with them if you expect them to perform consistently well.  Don’t expect more from them than you do of yourself.

5. Find their value: If you constantly compare them to other employees, it will be difficult to discover the unique value they bring to your team.  Once you discover and acknowledge their value, you will probably stop second guessing your decision to hire them in the first place.

Once you incorporate these 5 behaviors, things will start to fall into place.  There will be set-backs (like the one I cleaned up on my kitchen floor) and rewards (the sleeping puppy at my feet).  New employees want to be successful.  As a leader you have the opportunity to guide them toward success.  Before you know it, both you and the employee will become comfortable with each other and work more effectively together.  Enjoy the opportunity to coach your new employee.  Ultimately, how well they perform in the future is a reflection of the time you spent guiding them when they were a puppy…I mean, new employee.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jen Kuhn
Jennifer Kuhn is a talented, energetic and enthusiastic consultant, trainer and speaker. She has provided thousands of employees, coaches and executives with guidance while they work to enhance their professional skill development. Jen's approach has been hailed by participants who were initially skeptical or resistant. Her unique and non-threatening style wins over the most jaded employee that allows them to learn and grow within their organization.


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