How to completely torpedo a new employee
Skip onboarding altogether
Or worse, fool yourself into thinking “onboarding” happened by having them sit in a meeting with HR that teaches a new employee how to fill out a timesheet, and when the bi-weekly beer bash happens. But don’t bother to give your new employee an overview of the company, of your own team, of the members of your team, how the team aligns to the different areas of the company, or what the key product lines are. Mind you, that new employee is expected to help communicate all of that to other people inside your company as your group grows in importance. Let’s just make sure said new employee is never informed of the broad scope of the team, and let’s blow off the concerns of the employee when they’re raised while simultaneously apologizing profusely and claiming not to have the time. Instead, just give the new employee a list of names tossed off throughout random conversations and say “make sure you talk to X about this topic” with no context of who X is or why they are relevant to the topic.
Bonus points: make sure that you don’t just go overboard with onboarding the successor with team structure and projects and conference call introductions to the key players, but ensure that you do it while the employee whose career you’re cratering is in earshot, watching, but left off of the conference calls that you should have done 3 months ago.
Don’t give them specific to-do lists…
It’s far more efficient — for you, of course — to just toss off random emails to the new employee with random attachments and a simple “I really like this, we should make some of them.” No deadlines, no specific products to highlight, no audience you’re planning to target (much less an examination of whether or not this is the right way to reach that audience), or real purpose for those attachments. Just dump an idea on the table. But make sure you badger the new employee 6 weeks later to want to know where the finished product is, despite anything remotely resembling ‘guidance’.
Similarly, when you do send out a list of things to do related to a new product launch, make sure that at least 5 of the 8 are out of the control of the person you’re sending them to, but make sure you hold the new employee responsible for getting them done, even though the marketing department is already 6 weeks behind and out of budget 3 months ago, and you never bothered to introduce the new employee to the marketing team back during the (non-existent) on-boarding.
… or specific guidance
Everyone loves getting a set of Powerpoint slides with a picture of a cube, and a bunch of haphazard text around 3 sides of that cube, and the guidance to “clean this up and make it look professional.”
Also fun — “see what you can do to jazz up the standard team presentation” that superficially waves a hand over all the stuff you never covered in the non-existent onboarding and then wonder why there was “no value added” to a set of slides that were the limit of the depth of the your new employee’s knowledge about the team.
Bonus points when you send over a marketing calendar for external communication with customers and say “see what you can do with this.”
When you do give your new employee a specific action and due date, make sure you ignore the output that’s sent to you
No really. It’s just awesome when your field research survey is going live on Monday at 1pm, and it’s 9am and you’re on a conference call editing the survey questions line-by-line as your new employee is panicking about having a survey about to be released to the audience but isn’t ready to go live. Of course, when those same research survey questions were sent to you 10 days earlier, and you ignored them, and then were sent 8 days ago with a reminder, and you ignored them, and then when you were on the conference call announcing the go-live date on Thursday before they were released, and had no objections, why wouldn’t your new employee have assumed alles gutes and moved forward?
When you don’t ignore the output, go waaaaaay overboard on micromanaging the content
Make sure you rewrite the internal product announcement at least 4 times. Overwrite both the product manager and the communication guy. Take a once-sentence statement that answers “What is changing?” and make sure you muddy it with 7 Faulknerian sentences wrestled into two sort-of paragraphs of corporate doublespeak that fails to answer the question in the heading of the document section. Don’t forget to include a history of why the product even exists, since that’s a BLUF component of “What is changing?” (insert eyeroll here).
When your meddling has dragged the document through 5 layers of mud, and you’re frustrated at the new employee for making this take so long, don’t forget to talk about that new employee to your other direct reports such that its obvious to everyone you’re not happy. Oh, but make sure you leave out the parts where your MBA supposedly gave you the expertise to write concise, useful press releases and product announcements.
What’s that? You deliberately shoved all that excess content into the first section to help justify the fact that you’re going to start charging customers for something you used to give away? And you’re concerned that a decision you made is going to be unpopular with the sales team? Then by all means, you should absolutely blame the new employee for not understanding the gravity of the situation and its potential threat to your career! You owe a serious butt-chewing to that new employee for failing to properly obscure an unpopular business decision — that’s already known and being discussed within the company — in a product announcement that (get this) will never be seen by customers.
But again, a chance to earn some bonus points — let’s have a 30-minute call with the product manager, your new employee, the marketing rep for this product line, and the head of marketing for the entire business unit, to go thru and approve the content that’s going to be sent to your boss. Let’s not actually approve it, of course. Let’s resume editing the announcement, not just line by line, but word by word. “Are you sure xxxxx is really what we want to say here? Why not yyyyyy?” You know Y? Because you already changed it off of Y three edits ago, that’s Y. Oh, and when the head of marketing jumps off the call 5 minutes in, once it’s apparent this is not an ‘approval’ call but yet another ‘editing’ call, make sure you set the congenial team-building tone by loudly wondering what feminine problem she’s dealing with that put her in a mood on the call.
Ask them to rebuild the team website, but not like the current team website, until you need it to look just like the current team website
So yeah, rebuild the “portal” for the team, where the rest of the company comes to learn about what the team is doing and find information about the products for which the team is responsible. Sure. Oh, what? There’s already a portal from when this effort was done last year? Great! Update some Sharepoint webparts, trick out some graphics, and off you go.
But wait, you don’t actually want to build this on Sharepoint. Why not? Who cares! You’re the boss and you get to have it look however you want. But by all means, leave your new employee foundering in the dark for an idea, an inspiration, or any sort of guidance about the look and feel of the site, despite repeated attempts to ask you for “what’s a site you’ve previously used that you like?” So when the first ‘draft’ of the site comes in, build off the existing portal, make sure you completely chew up one side and down the other for “not thinking outside the Sharepoint box” and being insufficiently imaginative.
Oh, and make sure that in the midst of the butt-chewing, you pull up an internal site from your old company and ask “why can’t we make it look like this?” Make sure you do it in such a sweet sing-song voice that it completely obscures the fact that you were asked about this sort of guidance three weeks ago.
But no problem, because that employee is going to recover from this setback, and give you a solid forward-looking, adaptive graphics-heavy design that looks nothing like the old Sharepoint portal, and the combination of the new navigation paradigm and updated visuals have won you over and you greenlight the plan.
And at this point, make sure you ask that new employee “Are you sure you can do all this Sharepoint?”
Remember our field survey? Blow off the results.
Yeah, make sure you rationalize away any response that doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of what you already want to do, and then insist that your new employee rig the charts to bury those inconvenient responses that tell you not to do what you were planning to do. After all, when over half of your sales team is telling you that customers are cost-conscious about their support contracts, you need make sure you are as dismissive as possible by derisively and confidently stating “sales guys always think we charge too much” even though the sales guys are paid based on how much they bring in.
By now, if your new employee has any soul left at all, it’s a blackened, battered, and bruised carcass of a soul, subsisting primarily on the 25¢ sodas in the company break room, and the fact that no one really notices if that new employee takes the laptop home about 2pm most days and finishes the rest of the conference calls for the day from the house, with World Cup soccer on in the background. No, the husk of a formerly-enthusiastic employee, who you hired to be an “IT project manager,” has become a 50–50 blend of a Powerpoint bitch and therapy-sounding-board for the rest of the team that’s sick of listening to you disparage everyone behind their backs. Faux-cheerleading on a team call isn’t papering over the cracks, and your new employee isn’t 3 months on the job and already interviewing at 4 other places and handing our resumes like they were political pamphlets on voting day.
And when the new employee bails out, and becomes a former employee, you’re going to talk in the past tense about what a bad fit it was, while never remotely considering — much less coming to grips with — your failures as the leader of the team that let the new employee fail.
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