Eliminating New Job Anxiety

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Starting a new job is infamous for inducing anxiety and aggravating stress. In fact, it ranks close to divorce or the death of a loved one among life events that we find most difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, most of us will change jobs, and therefore start a new job multiple times in our careers.

It isn’t painless for HR professionals or managers either. The entire process of recruitment, hiring, and onboarding is resource taxing—lots of time, money, and energy are involved. The stakes can be quite high, depending on the position we’ve hired for, and mistakes can be costly. Not only do we lose what we’ve invested when we have to start the search again, but we delay filling a need; this usually means that we have frustrated and fatigued employees who have to cover the gap.

The pressure is on, then, not only to hire right, but to make the new hire work out if at all possible. But whether we are a new hire, or have newly hired, it’s not uncommon to have doubts about the decision. Did we choose wrong, and how can we know? After all, it’s better for everyone involved to course-correct quickly. The pain of a bad fit is not one-sided.

An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Workers can investigate prospective employers online and through their network. A bad reputation as an employer is a serious detriment to recruiting the best talent, but this should motivate us to be good employers; it shouldn’t provide reason to fear the investigation. If a new employee has done their due diligence and still wants to work for us, it greatly increases the chances that a good fit will be achieved. So, when interviewing, ask:

  • What attracted you to our business?
  • What about our business concerns you?
  • What questions do you have for us?

If they have no questions, or if their only questions are about compensation and benefits, or they can’t articulate their understanding of your enterprise, they haven’t learned enough about you to know if they want to work for you. That’s something to consider.
If there is a persistent struggle with or for a new hire, here are some things to evaluate.


How long have they been in the role? Is the job a bad fit, or is it the low end of a learning curve where discomfort is expected? Six months is a milestone I suggest for competency to be achieved, but, of course, some jobs are going to demand more.

Is progress being made? Patience and perseverance are often required for the employee to settle in to a new role; this is a sword that cuts both ways. Both parties should be encouraged if there is discernible progress. If the challenges are debilitating, or if there are signs of ill health like absenteeism, headaches, insomnia, depression, or the like, this could mean that the job fit is not so good.

In addition to progress, are there indicators of momentum? That is, are there signs that progress is accelerating? It is important, with an employee in a new role, to establish metrics that are appropriate for the situation. They should not be measured against standards to which more experienced or previous employees are held. We may want to focus on process rather than outcomes: a certain number of conversations held, potential customers contacted, internal connections made—whatever it may be. Are expectations clear and is the employee doing what will lead to success, even if success has not yet been achieved?

Do they need additional training, greater oversight, or a personal mentor?

Sometimes, it becomes clear that a situation is irretrievable and a change has to be made. Before firing, consider this:

  • Is the employee wrong for the business or just wrong for this particular role?
  • Are they trying hard, but still failing, or are they not trying?
  • If they have the qualities of a good employee, is there another position to consider?

Whatever we do, it should be done with respect and recognition that new employment is challenging for everyone. Even when letting an employee go, remember that allies are far more valuable than enemies. We can augment our network of assets when we let people go as painlessly as possible. Simply booting someone to the curb becomes part of the narrative about us that the next potential employee can view online.
Want to learn more? Join me December 7, 2017, for the webcast Disrupt Yourself. Learn a seven-point disruption framework and understand how you can apply the framework to your personal career path.

About the Author
Whitney Johnson has been identified as one of the 50 leading business thinkers in the world (Thinkers5). An expert on disruptive innovation and personal disruption, she outlined her framework in the critically-acclaimed book  Disrupt Yourself. She developed a proprietary framework and diagnostics after founding the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. Whitney is one of the original cohort of Marshall Goldsmith's #100 Coaches, a Coach for Harvard Business School's Executive Education and a Harvard Business Review Contributor with over 1 million followers on LinkedIn.
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