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Shift shock, also known as 'new hire's remorse,' is a phenomenon that describes the regret some new employees may feel when the job they were hired for is not the one they find themselves doing.Getty Images

Three weeks into a new position in growth marketing at a small e-commerce startup, Lydia began to feel like the role she was promised was not the role she was actually expected to perform.

Going into the job, Lydia, who is not using her real name to avoid identifying herself or the company, says she “didn’t have a full picture of the numbers, the budgets and the expectations.” Ultimately, she chalked it up to leadership at the company, thinking “maybe there was a disconnect between the person that brought me into the organization and their understanding of what is needed for the organization.”

The company’s marketing budget and distribution channels were far smaller than what was needed to meet the company’s aggressive growth targets, and the leadership environment wasn’t supportive or understanding enough.

Ultimately, Lydia chose to transition out of the organization after six months.

@linkedinuk Are you feeling shift shocked at work? CC: @Corporate Steve #work #CorporateTok #relatable #worklife #linkedin #shiftshock ♬ original sound - LinkedIn UK

Dubbed “shift shock” on TikTok, also known as “new hire’s remorse,” this phenomenon refers to when the scope of the role changes so drastically between the hiring process and the actual work that the new employee feels extreme regret. Left unaddressed, this regret can turn to hopelessness and even resignation.

Why does shift shock happen? After all, employers generally hire with good intent, and most are not actively seeking to “trap” a prospective worker into a job they never signed up for.

Laura Weldy, an HR expert and leadership coach, says that this may happen as the result of an internal communication failure, where “the hiring manager and the HR rep weren’t completely aligned on the vision for the role.”

She adds that, sometimes, this can also happen because company priorities and goals pivot entirely, leaving the new team member no choice but to follow in step – or flounder.

Alisha Adams, co-founder of global recruitment service Eleven Eleven Talent, points to a rushed interview and hiring process as possible reason for shift shock. In fact, on TikTok, creators call out a crunched timeline (a quick succession of interviews, being asked to start immediately) as one of the “red flags” to avoid new-hire regret.

Ms. Adams adds that a proper hiring process allows the employer to not only assess technical capabilities, “but also the EQ [emotional intelligence] fit to ensure the person will thrive in the environment.”

Given the time, cost and energy requirements of hiring, having talent quit just a few weeks in is never ideal. So, how can employers recruit, on-board and motivate their newest workers to avoid this?

Tess Collard, co-founder of Eleven Eleven Talent, suggests addressing four key areas during the interview stage with a final candidate: performance (what will success look like in this role?), culture (how do attributes of the company culture show up day to day in the business?), leadership (how would you describe the leadership philosophy across the company?) and EQ (what soft skills or core competencies do they possess that align with the working environment they will be going into?).

Once a new hire is brought on, the real work of communication and managing expectations begins. Ms. Weldy stresses the importance of creating a 90-day success plan during their first week on the job.

“Lay out the exact expectations you have as far as levels of autonomy in the role, development of specific skills or processes, results you’re tracking and looking to see, and even communication expectations.” That way, Ms. Weldy says, a new employee won’t be left to stumble into work habits, both good and bad, by accident. Another key for leadership is to help a new hire secure an early win.

“Notice one of their strengths and be sure to share a specific way that strength supported the team, in a visible setting,” suggests Ms. Weldy, adding that this will make the new hire feel noticed and celebrated, and give them a higher level of visibility early in their time at the company.

“It’s important that your new hire feels supported by you for the long term,” says Ms. Weldy. As their manager, don’t wait until after the first 90 days to start talking to your new report about their growth and goals. “Ask what their greatest strengths are and also what opportunities they’d like to be supported in pursuing over the coming year,” Ms. Weldy says.

In a similar vein, Ms. Adams recommends setting up regular touchpoints to create space for questions as well as educating the new hire on the larger vision and goals for the business.

Ms. Weldy also suggests that managers stay “highly available” during those crucial first weeks and months. “New hires sometimes feel guilty asking questions or are concerned that they’ll be seen as incapable, so encouraging questions is huge,” she says.

As for new hires who might be feeling the onset of remorse, or are simply looking to realign expectations with their managers, both Ms. Weldy and the co-founders of Eleven Eleven, Ms. Collard and Ms. Adams, recommend setting up a direct conversation to address these concerns.

Ms. Collard also recommends that the employee bring “suggestions or solutions to show you have an openness to continue to work together to address your concerns and ultimately be successful in the role.”

Still, employers have a role to play when rectifying a discrepancy – especially if it’s particularly egregious.

Reflecting back on her six-month run, Lydia says she’s proud of what she was able to accomplish at the company. And while she did bring up her concerns to her boss, “it’s heavier when management is looking to you, the employee, for the solution.”

She wishes that management offered more of a path to navigate the mismatch. “I think that effort makes a huge impact versus putting it solely on the employee,” she says.

Plus, in a down-turning market, employees don’t always have the luxury of simply walking away from a misleading opportunity – Lydia acknowledges the privilege of being able to resign.

Without proper employer support, a disillusioned new hire may not want to channel their energy into figuring out how to make the situation work. Instead, they may opt to put their efforts into finding a different role altogether.

And that’s hardly a win for anyone.

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