Once upon a time, I started a position somewhere (they shall remain nameless) where the grass seemed to be greener than my last pasture. I had a great boss, supportive and competent co-workers and challenging work- what more could one want?
It appeared throughout the interview process that this company was very concerned with attracting a competent HR professional that could help them ignite a more progressive HR delegation. I assured them that I was their woman wooing them with my credentials, education, past projects, notable employers and enthusiasm for the discipline of HR.
So said, so done…
I came on the scene and started effecting change quite immediately- to my then bosses’ delight. The problem was my co-workers weren’t delighted. You see at the same time that I was wowing my boss, the love and courtesy from my co-workers started to wane. Suddenly, the “good mornings” stopped, invites to lunch ceased and I was conspiring to take their jobs or so they thought.
What did they do next?
Daily, they would whisper and gossip about the many ways they could undermine my prowess and I knew it. What I did was return the favor, by not saying “good morning” or even looking their way. I just kept my head down and did the work. Before you get all mighty on me, it was fair treatment. I had just come out of a toxic environment that took everything from me and almost my health. I had no more tolerance for petty office shenanigans (insert the expletive of your choice for good measure).
In any event, their conspiring led them to my boss one day to complain about my lack of “good mornings” and reluctance to be “more social”. In turn, my boss called a meeting with me to ask me the following:
He said: “Janine, could you just be the bigger person and try a little harder- like be their friend.” To which I responded with a synopsis of my daily dealings with them. They wanted to dig into my personal life, meet for breakfast with spouses after church on Sunday; oh and I was to report to them the where, what, when and why- anytime I met with the Director of HR on a new project.
“I didn’t know all of this was going on, but could you just try a little harder- you’re stronger than them.” Keep in mind that, I was working for this company for maybe six months at this time.
What did they know about me?
That is the problem and the question. They knew nothing about me, my likes or dislikes, my work habits or my boundaries. All too often, we make judgments about the new guy or gal on the job based upon our own insecurities and biases. In this instance, these two were essentially uncomfortable because I was quickly productive and my ideas were welcomed. They had spent years doing mediocre work and I was shaking things up. Nevermind, that one of them hired me and gushed about the company and their need for a progressive person. That went out the window the day they realized I was a serious professional that got sh%t done.
Here’s why these situations are problematic for Talent Acquisition:
1) I was the new person. Instead of being supported, I was being bullied into being more social than I was ready to be at that time. I was told during the hiring process they wanted “productive and progressive” and that’s what I was doing.
2) The onus was placed on me to rectify a situation that my boss should have been able to handle quite decisively.
3) I could have quit and they would have been left wondering why. Toxic environments create turnover.
I didn’t quit, because I wasn’t about to let two bad apples ruin what was a dream opportunity.
As talent acquisition professionals, we need to remain cognizant of the fact that first impressions not only extend to how candidates impress us, but how we impress them. We can’t advocate for competencies and skills in the hiring process but then try to deter the person when they come barreling out of the gate providing the very same acumen you recruited for. Furthermore, you better be sure that you keep a close watch on those in a position to hire, on-board and mentor new employees. There is nothing more costly and embarrassing than to someday find out that your turnover is high and moreover, that it is high because someone in your organization is undermining your otherwise benevolent efforts to retain employees.
Some level of foolery exists in most organizations, but be sure your leaders are prepared to act swiftly, decisively, and consistently to prevent occurrences like these.
In the end, one of the co-conspirators left the company. The remaining one and I established an amicable work relationship.
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