Honeymoons at Work

Every relationship involves a honeymoon/infatuation stage. Although we most often think of the notion of ‘honeymoon’ in regard to romantic relationships, the concept also applies to the workplace. After all, new employees experience a honeymoon phase.

Here’s a little story*. Recently, we hired Elizabeth. After the manager Paul made the offer,  HR called Elizabeth to arrange her orientation, being very careful to consult Paul because, as always, we want and need the manager to participate throughout the onboarding process.

On the appointed day, Elizabeth arrived, smiling brightly and expectantly. HR completed our section, but every time we went to look for Paul, he was either on the phone or in a closed door meeting. This went on for hours, and HR’s conversations with Elizabeth became increasingly pained until she finally gave up and left without seeing her new manager or having her questions answered.

I’m sure that Paul was under pressure dealing with this Real Emergency or that Valid Crisis. I’m sure there were deals and issues and problems I don’t even know about. Maybe some of them were life or death; who am I to say?

That said, let’s think about it from Elizabeth’s point of view: This is her first day on the job.

This is the day she said, “Yes!”

This is the day she gave up her former life and joined our company.

This is the day she hoped to be swept off her feet.

This is the day she expected  to be WOWED.

This is the day she hoped for all that.

Instead, what happened? How long was Elizabeth’s  honeymoon?

Less than 60 minutes.

Can I say this again? How long was her honeymoon?

About an hour.

Elizabeth’s new job excitement lasted a grand total of 60 minutes, give or take, before she realized her boss wasn’t coming. That’s almost like saying the groom didn’t show at the church. What a horrible, wrenching moment when you realize you’ve been left alone at the alter.

The experience may not be exactly the same, but it’s close. Elizabeth left another job to join our firm. She risked everything–her family’s livelihood, her mortgage, her future–she risked everything for this job. After risking everything, her confidence that she made the right career choice lasted less than an hour.

In less than 60 minutes, she was disillusioned or at the very least questioned her choice and her judgment.  She quickly realized that her new boss has more important things to do than welcome a newcomer to the team; she learned he had more pressing matters than answering her questions; she saw he had higher priorities than making sure she has the information she needs to be successful in her new role.

It must have been a confusing and disappointing day for Elizabeth. It was also a frustrating and  sad for the HR department, despite our attempts to smooth thing over for her.  All honeymoons end, but we were crestfallen that hers ended so unnecessarily,  tragically, and so #(&$%  prematurely.

After all, why do we have crushes? What is the evolutionary purpose of an infatuation? In my opinion, these early, intense emotional experiences exist because they are a cushion allowing enough time that “real” love might  have a fighting chance to sprout and grow.

All honeymoons end; that’s a given. The  challenge is to set down deeper roots, real attachment, before infatuation fades away.

But when the honeymoon ends on Day One, real roots, real connections, real love, are very unlikely to form.

What a waste. HR friends, managers, we can do better.

What was your shortest work honeymoon, and how long did you stay at that job?

photo by teresachin2007


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