3 Little White Lies Your New Employee is Telling You


Have you ever attended a meeting or training session, when the leader or facilitator asked, “Does anybody have any questions?”

And you do, in fact, have questions. But you don’t ask.

I think we’ve all been there. For one reason or another, we don’t always speak up when we are unsure about something. Or maybe we don’t feel comfortable admitting that we don’t already know what we’d like to ask. Call it insecurity, or wanting to look like we’ve got it all together, but we walk out of those meetings and training sessions without clarity, lacking information that would make our jobs easier.

Now, friends, let me ask you. Has this ever happened to you when you were new on the job?

Chances are, at one point or another, it has. Have you misled your boss into thinking you understand something, when really, you’re full of questions? Put yourselves in their shoes, hiring managers. What question is your newest team member NOT asking?

The title of this post might have made you think I was going to write about lying on one’s resume…or a new employee leading you to believe he has “expert proficiency” with Microsoft Excel during the interview process, only to find out he’s a beginner. But that’s not where I’m going. I’m talking about little cues you can pick up on that might indicate your new employee is lacking knowledge, context or clarity. Here are three to consider:

1. “I don’t have any questions.”

Like I said before, sometimes a new employee just doesn’t want to admit weakness. That he isn’t fully understanding what’s going on. As hiring managers, co-workers and trainers of new employees, we need to see beyond the lack of questions and anticipate the questions that they might have…or don’t claim to have.

What’s the solution?

Offer an abundance of easy-to-use resources that will help new employees learn and locate information on their own. Create job aids, post FAQs, encourage dialogue through social platforms. Leverage channels that work for your team and organization. The key is to make it easy. The idea is to provide answers and clarity…not to add to the noise and confusion.

2. “I did the same thing at my last job.”

Even though people know that a new job will be different than their last one, we still compare experiences, tasks, resources, and even people, particularly when the role is similar. While this isn’t necessarily a lie, it does give us an opportunity…

That opportunity?

Provide context. It’s our job as facilitators of learning (that includes you, hiring managers) to help new employees understand the company. Understand the dynamics of the team. Understand the expectations of his role. It’s all about making it real and differentiating this job from the last one. In time, your new employee will put his past behind him. Until that day comes, you need to be there guiding his new path.

3. “I can do this on my own.” Productive autonomy sends a signal of competence. New employees want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to be be micromanaged, and they certainly don’t want to appear like they aren’t able to get the job done. It takes a leader who is tuned in to the needs of his team, to understand the balance of stepping back…and stepping in.

How can you offer support?

As a wise man once said, “Stop, collaborate and listen.” Take a lesson there, friends.  Listen to your employees. Connect them with others for projects, when it makes sense. When it’s more logical to work independently, encourage them to do so, ensuring they have the necessary tools and resources available. But all along the way, through collaborative and autonomous work, you should be communicating regularly with each of your employees, particularly your newest ones. Give context. Set expectations. Ask questions. Provide (and request) feedback. Keeping the channels open from the beginning will only lend itself to stronger relationships for the long haul.

Just like a parent must look beyond the “half-truths” their children dish out (as a mother of two, I know a thing or two about that!), leaders and facilitators need to look beneath the surface of what our newest team members are telling us. It’s not that they are actually “lying” to us. They are in a delicate position of proving themselves and demonstrating proficiency…when they are simply trying to figure it all out. Understand that. Accept that. And then do something about that!

Your turn: How else can leaders create an environment that enables new employees? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

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2 thoughts on “3 Little White Lies Your New Employee is Telling You

  1. Brian Washburn says:

    My favorite line in this post: “It’s our job as facilitators of learning (that includes you, hiring managers)…” Too often there is a perceived split between “training professionals” and the rest of the organization. The fact is that managers (particularly right after a hire) are crucial in the role of facilitator of learning.

    • Michelle says:

      Absolutely! The relationship between an employee and his/her direct supervisor is the so critical, particularly in the first few months on the job. Nurturing that relationship from the earliest days only strengthens those long-term ties. Thanks for sharing!

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