New colleagues and things to learn, along different daily tasks make starting a new job an exciting time for most “just hired” employees, unfortunately this doesn’t last. This high level of excitement and engagement that makes a new employee seem like the perfect pick for a company is often referred to as the “honeymoon period” and when it’s over these same energetic people come down with a “hangover”.
Why does this occur?
The disappointment many new employees feel with their job usually sets in after they’ve been there a year, though for some people it can hit after 6 months. It starts when they realize that the job is not living up to their heightened expectations, and now the work place is starting to feel a little stale. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that feelings of disappointment were stronger in employees that truly loved their new job. This has managers wondering what they can do to keep their employees engaged.
There are several factors that can contribute to this growing trend. One of the most commonly cited is that new employees tend to look at their leaders through “rose tinted glasses”, seldom noticing any flaws with their managers or the work place in general. This optimistic view only last during the period when employees and leaders are getting acquainted, and still focused on building a comfortable relationship. Once this is established, new employees often have a more realistic view of their leaders and the workplace. In employees this can lead to disengagement and dissatisfaction.
Professor of organizational psychology at the University of Western Australia Mark Griffin believes that this data might be mixed. While he admits that an employee will become less engaged at a new job after a year, in most cases it is not as much as they were at their previous place of employment. Professor Griffin found that most people that leave an unsatisfying job for a better opportunity did experience a slight decrease in engagement after 12 months, but they were still happier than they were previously.
There were two minor exceptions in his study. One included the small group of employees that were never happy at any job, and were constantly switching every few years or less. The second exception involves those that felt like they were leaving for a better company, only to find out that they weren’t as happy.
Author of Hardwiring Experience Quint Struder states that the impact of the “hangover period” can be soften. He recommends that managers ask their new employees the following five questions at 30 and 90 day intervals. They are,
- Are we (as a company) like you thought it would be?
- What is going well for you at work?
- Are there any employees that have been especially helpful?
- Did you do anything at your previous job that could be beneficial here?
- Do you know of anyone that might be a valuable asset to the team?
Even if managers do not like their employees answers it is always better to know of any problems before the “hangover” starts to really set in.