Software

Member email: My new boss isn't giving me any guidance

Some bosses think their new employees should magically know what to do when they come to work for the first time. Here's how to deal with those bosses.

In this blog, I'll address an email from a TechRepublic member who is kind of at sea in this new position, thanks to a lack of effort on the part of his new boss. From the email:

Dear Toni,

Thanks in part to your column and advice I was able to make a vertical move to a new company during these still uncertain times.

Unfortunately, now that I've started at this new company things aren't quite as organized as I thought they might be or especially as I'm used to. It's a small development firm with 13 people. I have been hired as the manager of client engagements and a large percentage of my time will be helping the owner/president/CEO with outside sales.

I started February 1st and now 7 days later have received no training, no direction, and no orientation. I showed up at 8:00 AM on my first day, the VP of Technology was just plugging my PC in to the network, gave me my username and password, showed me the address to their intranet portal and said welcome to the company. The owner showed up at 10:30 AM that day, introduced me to the rest of the employees at the team meeting, then told me he was too busy for the next two weeks to do any training.

During my second day I mentioned to one of my coworkers that I was a little lost and didn't have anything to do, so on day 3 the owner sat with me for ten minutes briefly explaining a project they had been working on for over two years and asked me to help me quote the next phase.

Now, a week later he has been on vacation and is asking me via e-mail to put proposals together for other existing clients on technology that I've never used. I'm muddling my way through it, taking three times as long to do what it should be taking because of my lack of training. I'm contacting existing customers introducing myself because he's not here to do any kind of warm hand-off.

I have no peers in the organization (the owner is the only person who has ever done any sales) and the other employees are busy working on their projects. I'm just wondering if this is normal and how you think I might make the transition a little smoother.

I know this will get better and after six months will be able to look back and have a chuckle about this but right now my frustration level is increasing daily with no sign of the situation getting any better. Part of me is flattered that the boss thinks I can just sit down and figure this out but in reality he needs to understand that without a warm hand-off and some training, things could get worse before they get better.

I suffered this same predicament a few years ago at a new job. I truly believe that the only thing worse than being overworked is being underworked.

There are a couple of things going on here. Although it's tempting to think that your new boss is just pretty lazy, the chances are better that he just doesn't have the first clue how to orient a new employee. The fact that you have an extensive background and are very much qualified for the new job has somehow translated in his mind that you're also clairvoyant.

Managers like these don't realize that, although a new employee has the required skill set, there still needs to be an a period of adjustment and orientiation so a new employee can see how to utilize those skills. The company context is paramount to doing one's job but a lot of people don't see this. Okay, and he might be a little lazy.

I would not hesitate to reach out to this guy, even if by email, and explain that you're eager to get started but need to have some questions answered. Now, I understand that it's difficult to ask questions when you don't know enough about the company plans to form some questions. But don't be afraid to go basic.

I don't think the guy is purposefully being difficult. I just don't think he understands your situation. Some larger companies have well-documented training regimens. This one appears to be too small to have gotten that far. So it's pretty much up to you to light your own way. Good luck!

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About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

23 comments
GDoC
GDoC

This reminds me of the old saw about the boss taking the new hire out to a seaside cliff. Looking out at the ocean, the new hire says, "I see, you expect me to sink or swim!" The boss replies, "Heck no! I want to see you fly!" There are a lot of managers dealing with "choppy seas" of internal infrastructure, politics, and inertia, that will go to a new hire or a consultant just to have some headway made against these seas. By permitting you to find your own path, and by feeding your findings back into the sea, without extensive overt guidence, you are being utilized to help calm those seas. Mayhap the manager is depending on your ignorance about how they do things specifically to take advantage of your skills to change the way things are, something that is at times easier to do without the "indoctrination". Is it easy for you? No. But if you in your rowboat know that you need to turn into the waves, and the captain of the oceanliner doesn't, you still can provide insight into how to keep the ship from sinking.

sir.smurfalot
sir.smurfalot

I have a manager that blends this lack of training and guidance with rabid micromanagement. He somehow manages to bottle-neck the entire process with a series of endless checks and reviews while giving virtually no feedback.

DMambo
DMambo

I had a boss whose guiding principle was "Success comes to those with a high tolerance for ambiguity and frustration." I never really figured out if it was great advice or just a cover for bad management. But it sure made me stand on my own in a hurry!

shadeyah
shadeyah

The same situation happened to me, may be your job description will give you clear vision about you duties, and for each duty if you found your self we need skills ask for training, also what happened me make search in internet from any issue you want to ask about it.

Englebert
Englebert

One job I had, my bosses boss asked me to come in to his office on the 2nd day I joined, a Wednesday. Then he said he had a tight deadline for a task and asked me for an estimate. For Chrissakes, I did'nt even know where the printer was. Unable to give him an estimate, he said he needed a set of programs written and completed by the coming Monday. To make a long story short, I worked like an animal and got the job done. The appreciation I received from him was profuse and genuine. So, dont be complaining. Here's some tips : 1. Know all the people and their titles. 2. Know the culture 3. Know where all the resources are (manuals, machinery) 4. Know all of your responsibilities. 5. Know the reponsibilities of those around you...and so on. Lastly, since your the new set of eyes, come up with suggestions for improvements

cmejia
cmejia

The thing is I LOVE these situations. This is really the time to shine. I work so much better in a hands-off work environment. Thank God this describes pretty much where I work, only with alot more employees. If you feel really lost I suggest start documenting what you think you are supposed to do and let your boss have a crack at approving/disapproving the content. I did this for server builds at my company and found it works well because some managers can figure out how to correct a process better than explain it. It also shows great inititive since most people would rather stick their head in the sand. Give it a shot!

megabaum
megabaum

Hello, my suggestion would be to look forward and get going on these projects, even if you have uncertainty or are unsure how to complete a task, use your resources, charm and lean on co-workers to get your projects done and do them well! Your boss will be very happy to learn that you've completed your tasks, wihtout complaint and worked with your co-workers to complete your goals and learn the ropes. Unfortunately, there's not always a training manual or sessions for jobs and you need to learn to adapt. In my career, I've been able to get up to speed and show value quickly by figuring things out and sifting through "gray" area, which there is always going to be. And I've dealt with gray area that would make your head spin. If it were me, I'd figure out "how" to complete these tasks well, while documenting any helpful information for training purposes that might help in the future. You may need to look at company documentation, their website, talk with co-workers or research industry standards, but you'll get there. *If you do this, you'll begin accoomplishing good things and may show value early on. At a minimum, you'll feel better as each day progresses. If you're boss needs to be involved with somthing, just be sure to cc: him on emails or include him on status updates, meetings, reports, etc. Most of the stuff that's worth learning is going to be via your co-workers, that is unless you are in a Management trainee program which doesn't seem to be the case. Enjoy, have fun, work hard. Good luck.

Matthew G. Davidson
Matthew G. Davidson

This would be a great time to document all the training a new hire should receive. Creating an onboarding work book would show your desire to learn and help others see value in your work.

_Pete_
_Pete_

How much training and hand-holding can you expect from a 13-person firm? It seems to me this person was hired to establish the client-engagement function and as a senior, experienced person she should be able to do so. She needs to step up, figure out what needs to be done, spend some time self-training on the necessary technologies, and make things happen. She should use her industry experience to make recommendations to the boss instead of sitting around waiting for the boss to tell her what to do.

cbader
cbader

I dont want to get too long winded by I actually just went through almost the exact same situation. My boss even went so far as to tell me that he wanted me to learn most of the network/policies/procedures/etc without any guidance from him. I told him I wasnt a mind reader and that if he couldnt give me any guidance and help me out with some of this stuff it wasnt going to work. long story short, after two of the most difficult and frustrating working months of my life I left for a better position and am much happier now.

shoelessjoe_51
shoelessjoe_51

I think that's pretty good advice. The only thing I would to that is forecasting. Success comes to great forecasters.

shoelessjoe_51
shoelessjoe_51

...someone would have actually went to the trouble to explain 1-5 above. It's pretty hard to ask know the culture when it hasn't been explained and it's pretty hard to know your responsibilities when you don't have a job description. This is a true case case of, "you don't know what you don't know," so where do you begin?

shoelessjoe_51
shoelessjoe_51

You make a great point. I like your comment that, "some managers can figure out how to correct a process better than explain it." This is very likely the case in my situation.

shoelessjoe_51
shoelessjoe_51

Great advice, thank you! You sound like you've been in my exact spot before. My new motto has been to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. I'm taking the initiative and making sure the boss knows what going on. If he doesn't like it I'm assuming he'll tell me.

shoelessjoe_51
shoelessjoe_51

That's exactly what I've been doing. It was my goal after about 3 days to make sure the next person that came in the door didn't have to go through this.

michael.kregel
michael.kregel

It is not hand holding. Its finding out what the company needs from you. Whats wrong with that?

RG Bargy
RG Bargy

What did your poster think (s)he was signing up to? There are (like most things) two alternatives: Get out now, or effectively make your own job for you. Learn (quickly) about the company's product(s) and its existing customer base. Unless it's blindingly obvious what the company's product(s) do, talk to the people who thought-up the products and see what else they could be used for and who else they could benefit. Work out an action plan for what your poster is then going to do, take it to the CEO and tell them what you are going to do, then do it. If the CEO says no then engage them to see what they want, and if they don't engage, or it's clear that they only want a muppet then go back to alternative 1 above.

dfa19
dfa19

I've worked for large companies ( Hot Topic, Parker Hannifin, Ross) I'm starting a position monday as Retail POS Admin for BCBG and I can tell you even though I have 7+ years of experience I usually figure it out but understand the dilema. Most of the big companies did thourough training on there core apps and thats it, which I appreciated seeing as I was supporting the network. At a consulting firm who I worked for and was placed at Ross warehouse which mind you is 1,500,000 square feet and has 40 IDF's and 50+ servers and 200+ AP's in that environment I needed more training than the 2 days they gave m but it wasn't per se the lack of time or knowledge it was adapting to there company policies and procedures because they had many and we were ill informed by out trainer who sounds alot like this guys boss. So I understand, but as you come across something ask for help if you can't get it than you should google it and train yourself.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]She needs to step up, figure out what needs to be done, spend some time self-training on the necessary technologies, and make things happen.[/i] The problem is, without guidance, the things that happen may not be the things the boss wants to happen.

_Pete_
_Pete_

Nothing I suppose. But it seems to me this person is taking an overly passive approach. Mid- to senior-level people should be able to take general guidelines and high-level goals from the business, and then be able to proactively work out the details. Sometimes the boss doesn't have all the answers. That's why they hire experts.

shoelessjoe_51
shoelessjoe_51

Nick is right on the money. I am the person who sent the e-mail to Toni and want to thank her and all of you for your comments. I've been in this industry for 10 years and held a very similar position with my last firm for 8 years. I was brought on to help grow the organization and help develop the sales process but without any knowledge of company goals, expectations, a job description, existing processes, services and products this new company offers it's pretty hard to set my goals in line with theirs. BTW, we're not selling $10 widgets here. My second week I sent out a $50,000 custom development proposal for phase 3 of a project that has been in development for 2 years.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

is that those general guidelines and high-level goals are what this person is looking for. I've been wrong before, though...

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