Having recently joined a small company where the entire team works remotely, I’ve been confronted with a few challenges which I have never experienced in my professional career. It is important to mention that in my previous employment, I was at top management level and had been there for almost 10 years. It has been a rather huge adjustment to move from an office-based job to working alone. Yes, we do have check-in meetings but I spend 90% of the day in my home ‘office,’ waiting for work to be given or shared. It’s a lonely road.
The biggest challenge I’m faced with at the moment is the lack of communication from my ‘team’ - note ‘team’. This environment mimics little characteristics of a team. I’ve only been in this role for little over 6 weeks but I have not been ‘orientated’ with what I’m actually supposed to be doing. When I am given instructions, it is rushed/abrupt and not clear. Where does that leave me as someone who is eager to learn, make an impact and/or use/share my skills learned over the years?
The work I have been able to submit almost never lives up to my new boss’ standards. I feel sidelined as I’m not invited to meetings with clients. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take over or lead but I feel by being in the room observing and listening, I would be given an opportunity to learn and understand this new environment and somehow better understand what my role is/should be. I might get a clearer view of the company; which of my skills are needed, and therefore add value to my ‘team’.
Where do I go from here? The ‘lean’ team is busy (all the time), so asking questions leaves me feeling like I’m a bother. No one takes calls, and when it comes to texting they take forever to respond to WhatsApp messages, or I find myself being blue-ticked. My boss is showing signs of micro aggression/ impatience/ annoyance at my questions. Where do I go from here? Can you imagine how many other ‘new employees’ are going through or have been through this? Does this set them up for failure or success? What is the missing piece?
Clear communication. New employees do not require baby sitting but they deserve guidance and clear communication so they can be set up for success. Just like any new relationship, there needs to be communication about the do’s and don’ts; expectations and a positive experience of how one treats the other. The professional space is not easy to navigate when it comes to such because there are many ‘things’ at stake. By these 'things' I mean, the uncertainty of whether you will make it beyond probation; whether you are or aren’t meeting the requirements and fear of being unemployed.
A call to employers (big or small) - these are the things you can help set your new employees up for success with:
1. Have a plan, no matter how insignificant you may think this is - you need a plan for the new employee.
2. What is the role you are hiring them for? Titles become insignificant sometimes, but the role needs to be clear. The title must match the expectations and tasks given (please).
3. KPA’s- Key Performance Areas. This gives both the employee and employer clear guidelines on what the employee should perform or should be aiming to perform.
4. Patience - patience for the person walking into YOUR work environment. After all, you didn’t employ them for knowing your business but rather for the skills you identified as needed/relevant for YOUR business. Give them time to learn (with your guidance) then wait to see results (this won’t happen overnight).
5. Kindness - be kind enough to correct the person when they aren’t getting it right. It’s not possible for them to get it right the first time, all the time. A little kindness goes a long way in motivating new employees to produce high quality work ALL the time. This will benefit everyone in many ways.
6. Be happy - be happy to be the mentor. A happy mentor and a happy employee = a healthy working environment (no aggression in any shape or form - ain’t nobody got time for that).
7. Professionalism - this will always keep you protected against any possible misconduct/ perceived unfair behaviour. This is key!
As I navigate this lonely road in my professional journey, I’ve used this blog as a reminder to myself of what is important in any career/work life. Employers who communicate clearly are destined to set their employees (new and old) for success. As for the remote working part, that’s a journey that deserves its own blog.