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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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.

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