A manager writes:

“I just arrived excitedly at my new job and was surprised to find that they weren’t ready for me: a number of people who I thought would know about my arrival seemed surprised to see me, I have an office but no computer has been assigned yet so I am out of the scheduling and info loop. I met with my boss for 15 minutes the first day and she said we can talk more the next week at the management team meeting. How should I best prepare for this meeting and my job?”

Answer

It is exciting to be starting in a new job. However, it sounds like you are getting a flash introduction to what seems to be a disorganized boss, or a dysfunctional organization culture, or both. You are facing challenges on how you can fulfill your responsibilities.

First, there are the practical aspects of getting the information and tools you need to do your job, and to make introductions to the people with whom you’ll be working. If you are supervising others, they may have demands of you, possibly sooner than later. You will need to manage expectations as you chart your own on-boarding process. I would advise the following steps:

  • Ask your boss’s secretary for a convenient time to get the schedule, agenda and recent minutes of the management team meetings if they are available. Hopefully you can see the other members of the management team and start to introduce yourself.
  • Seek out others who you think you will interact with during on-boarding or regularly thereafter: for example, I.T., finance, procurement, cleaning. Introduce yourself in a friendly way and inquire how things work and how you can best co-operate. (Friendly is the operative word here; do not be critical of the people or processes. There will be time later for your feedback on improvements.)
  • Introduce yourself to your staff and let them know the on-boarding process and timeline you have set. If someone comes to you with an urgent issue that is beyond their means to resolve, ask what they would have done before your arrival and accompany them through that process. Doing so will help you learn more about how the organization works.
  • Share your on-boarding plan at the management team meeting, and ask if anyone has any suggestions.

Second, if this experience reflects how the place goes about its work, there is the question of whether you feel there is a match between you and the organization. If you have received assistance and goodwill from others as you searched for information you may have confidence that you will have support to make a valuable contribution. If you experienced apathy, incompetence or resistance you may have to reconsider whether to stay with the organization.

Your experience brings to mind a question that every person should ask in a hiring interview, ‘How do you approach orientation and on-boarding?’

A question for your peers:  What was your worst on-boarding experience and how did you deal with it? 

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