• Shonleigh Draper

My worst nightmare just came true for my friend who recently started her 'dream' job

Updated: Feb 11

On Sunday I caught up with a girlfriend who when she saw me literally JUMPED at the opportunity to tell me all about how horrendous her recent experience was with a brand new company she’d just started with a month ago.

I'm not just saying it because she's my friend, this IS the kinda person my friend is...

A little bit of context for you: she is a high-energy, kind, well-educated and successful woman in her own right, who has spent years doing the hard yards chipping away at her career in media (for anyone who has worked in media, you'll totally get that it's not as glamorous as it sounds). She has longevity in her roles and doesn't 'job hop', when she's in it she's in it for the long haul.

So after spending her days walking around on egg shells taking orders from a serial Negative Nancy boss for the past couple of years, spending her days in an office where her colleagues were crying around her most days because they were so unhappy and stressed, being spoken down too weekly, being humiliated in front of her team and barked at instead of being spoken to, she decided that it was time to look elsewhere and potentially even outside of the industry that she’d worked so hard to forge a career in after her completing her expensive university education.

Fast forward a month after having this revelation she’d secured an interview with a recruitment company, who told her that she’d make a wonderful Account Manager for an Advertising Agency because her energy is contagious and she's so great with people.

She was so excited for the opportunity to present herself to the client, turning up to the interview early and doing all the right things to put her best foot forward whilst being transparent about the change she was needing in her work environment and the office culture she hoped to be apart of.

So naturally, the outcome for her was insanely positive...

The interview went brilliantly, they sold her the dream, they gave her the confidence she needed in that moment to shift her career path and change her life trajectory for the better, they assured her they would give her what she needed to succeed in the industry, they told her that their culture was second to none, their staff retention was high and that they’d be with her every single step of the way which brought her so much relief to hear.

She passed with flying colours, the advertising agency loved her and suggested they’d like to make her an offer the next day.

Knowing fully well what the offer would look like, as she’d read the Seek ad inside out and back to front, she waited for the offer to hit her inbox. 

The offer came through and she was so relieved to receive it, until she read that it was just a casual $10,000 less than what the advertisement had quoted and what had been discussed in her interview with the owner of the company. 

She felt disheartened and confused and this was the very first time her gut intuition screamed at her that something here wasn't quite right.

But she was excited about the prospect of this role, this wonderful opportunity, the chance to switch careers and do something different, so after speaking with the person who interviewed her about the offer and questioning why the offer was lower than the advertisement had suggested, she was told this was where they’d like to start her based on her lack of experience but that the bonuses she'd make would be coming in thick and fast for her.

She mulled over it, had many conversations with her incredibly supportive husband about the big pay cut she'd need to take and she accepted the offer, even though her gut instinct advised her to reconsider her options.

She consciously ignored those feelings and she resigned from her role excited to start her next chapter.

She was moving onto bigger and much better things...

A few weeks later, it was her very first day in her new role and she was like a giddy little school kid ready for her fresh, new, exciting start in the world of advertising.

She arrived at the office just before her start time, and waited for her team and boss to arrive so she could get straight into her induction.

30 minutes later, after sitting in the foyer outside waiting patiently, her team arrived and someone came and let her in.

She was coldly told where to sit, was given a computer without any access or logins, and was left to her own devices. She had never worked a day in advertising in her life.

A little while later she sheepishly got up and approached someone in the team who was a Senior and asked a very simple question around gaining access to her computer so that she could at least login, look around and try to be productive whilst she waited for her onboarding and induction to start.

To her surprise, she she was met with a hand put up in her face and a “Shhhh. STOP.” from the woman on the other side. She wasn't interested in helping the 'new girl'. She would later find out that this woman was "just who she is" according to the boss, and he would make every excuse he could possibly muster up to explain why her behaviour was so unprofessional and so toxic to the culture.

But maybe the grass isn't always greener on the other side...

Can you imagine how this must have felt for my friend? The humiliation, the confusion, the disappointment and the concern that she’d made a very big mistake in leaving her job for a company that was the Siamese twin to her last one.

She went back to her desk, with her thoughts running a million miles an hour around in her head.

“What have I done? OMG what have I done?! I’ve made a huge mistake here, how am I going to tell my husband? This can’t be happening to me, I left my successful career for this. I took a $10,000+ pay cut for this. Okay just relax, the boss will be in soon and everything will be fine”.

The person who had interviewed her initially, and who owned the company walked into the office a short while later which gave my friend a huge sense of relief when she saw him walk towards her.

She looked up nervously but with eager eyes and a big smile on her face, because in that moment she felt safe and hopeful for her big bright future with the company.

He simply looked at her, nodded and continued on, walking straight into his office and not resurfacing to check-in with her, to make her feel comfortable or to bring her any sense of security. She was well and truly on her own and in that moment she knew it was going to be 'sink or swim' in that agency.

On her fourth day in the job, there was a song playing in the office and my girlfriend was told off for humming three words (quietly) to the song, with Negative Nancy taking off the pair of ear muffs she was wearing (that she uses to block out any sound), and barking at my friend "Excuse me! NO. We can’t have that. Okay?”. The office fell silent and again, my friend was left feeling singled out, embarrassed and ashamed.

And just like that, 'the dream role' became her worst nightmare...

The next couple of weeks would unravel much the same as her first day, with no onboarding, no induction and no direction, like a fish out of water she was worked to the bone, starting early, working late, floundering and feeling so ashamed about the position she felt she'd put herself in.

She was told off in her first week for not knowing what to do, and groaned at by staff members when she tried to ask a question.

When in reality, what happened to her in that month had nothing to do with my friend at all, it had everything to do with a huge lack of transparency, zero leadership and a Senior Negative Nancy ruling the roost and being single handily responsible for the entire team turning over once or twice a year.

As she later found out, they'd sold her the dream just like they had to handfuls of others before her, and on her very first day in the job they’d ripped that dream away from her without a care in the world for the position they had put her in. All they cared about was 'bums on seats', and she was just another bottom keeping that seat warm for the next month until she threw in the towel and they replaced her with another dreamer.

They broke her, and she was left to pick up all the pieces...

An experience like this has a serious negative effect on the person who gets 'jibbed', they are left feeling disappointed, they are stripped of all self-confidence they had, and they carry around so much shame.

And if that isn't bad enough, moving forward when my friend begins to apply for a new role, she's going to have to present a CV that shows years worth of longevity and gumption in her previous roles, and "Account Manager - Advertising Agency - 1 month", as her most recent position which is something that future employers will immediately question and something that she'll now need to explain tactfully should she get an interview with potential employers.

I can almost hear what the prospective employer or recruiter will be thinking "Hmmm, wonder what she did there? She probably couldn't cut it in a new industry. She probably got fired for not cutting the mustard. Maybe she can't hit revenue KPIs. Maybe she's got issues and they had to let her go".

So not only has she been blindsided by walking into a sh*t show of a company and had an unnecessary setback in her career that was completely out of her control, but it's now on display for the whole world to see (okay that's a little dramatic) and for her to now have to explain to people in a way that doesn't tarnish her reputation or make her seem flakey to prospective employers. It just doesn't seem fair to me.

I'm sharing this with you today because hearing my friends story on the weekend, and seeing the look on her face made me feel so helpless and so disappointed for her.

As employers, and team mates, we HAVE to get better at this...

Of course as a recruiter i've heard a similar story to my friends many times from talent who reach out to me desperately looking for new roles due to the situation they've found themselves in. Again, situations that have been out of their control, situations they've found themselves in because they were sold the dream and because they trusted their future employers word.

My friends experience has made me question everything I do in recruitment at ThinkRed, down to "Are my clients actually onboarding and inducting my talent the way they deserve to be?".

To which I know the answer to that is 9/10 times, a big fat YES because I am forever banging on to my clients about the importance of onboarding, the induction process and how important it is to warmly welcome a new team member into the fold. And it's also a 9/10 for me because I am incredibly diligent in my follow up and post-placement care with my talent, they trust me and they confide in me so I know exactly what's going on (most of the time!). 

The jig is up, we can no longer make excuses for this lack of care...

What i've learnt from my time in recruitment is that the happiness, success and long-term retention of new employees is highly indicative of the very first day right up until the very first month that someone spends in their new role. If you stuff up, the trust is broken and it's almost impossible to gain it back. This all starts with whether or not your new employee knows where to park when they arrive, how they are then greeted by the receptionist when they step foot in the office, how warm or cold it feels in energy when they are introduced to the team, right down to whether or not they are shown where the loo is.

And what I have seen firsthand is that this incredibly important 'make or break' period of time tells the new employee a hell of a lot about their new employer and the standard in which they've set for their agency and their team. Without a doubt in my mind, I believe that the onboarding and induction experience directly impacts how someone feels about their new role, their future with the company and their leader and it ultimately dictates whether or not they stick around long-term.

Because at the end of the day, we have a responsibility that we need to take seriously...

My point is this (there's a point, I promise)... onboard your people like your life depends on it, because the reality is the life and longevity and reputation of your business DOES depend on it.

Take the induction process seriously, don't skim over it mindlessly, don't treat it as something that isn't important because the new employee is 'experienced and knows what to do'. They don't know how to operate your way, they don't know your systems, they don't know where the toilet is or which part of the fridge to put their lunch in, they don't know what your standards and expectations of them are - it is 100% your job to take your time in passing all of this valuable knowledge and information on and to in turn set your new employees up for success and longevity in their career with you. You took them on as one of your own, and you owe this to them.

It's that simple... treat your new employee as you'd wish to be treated starting in a brand new office and company (it can be really daunting!), onboard your people like your life depends on it, and take the induction process seriously because that's exactly what it is.