Leadership & Productivity

The frightening truth: onboarding horror stories

8 min read

24 October 2017

It's not the start of the latest horror movie, but the terrifying reality for many new starters taking on a new role in a new company. Here are some of the worst onboarding horror stories.

Lost in a seemingly abandoned building, feeling hungry and uncomfortable, you seek desperately for anything to help you understand what’s going on, but the phones are disconnected and the rooms are empty. When you finally stumble upon the residents, they eye you suspiciously and your pleas for help appear to make them angry.

It’s not the start of the latest horror movie, but the terrifying reality for many new starters taking on a new role in a new company. Webonboarding asked 4,000 employees around the world about their worst experiences when starting a new job and the results are scary.

These onboarding horror stories make shocking reading. If you’re brave enough, read on…

The abandoned building

Many intrepid onboardees turn up to start work on day one, to find no-one expecting them and nothing ready. While not quite a ghost-town, it’s certainly a less than welcoming experience as this employee explains:

“At a recent job, my assigned office was completely empty, with no furniture, computer, phone, etc. They gave me a box of tissues the first day and that was it.”

Almost four in ten (39 per cent) of employees surveyed said they had encountered problems when starting a new job. While almost half (42 per cent) said they didn’t have a computer or laptop ready for them when they started, more than one in four (26 per cent) lacked a basic desk.

Watch out for the zombies

While turning up to find no computer or desk ready is a relatively common problem for new starters, we did feel particularly concerned for this onboardee who seems to have joined a company staffed by zombies:

“Turning up at a new job to find the person who hired me was away for a week and no one else knew what I was supposed to do. No desk, nothing. Standing in the middle of the office while they all just looked at me blankly.”

Just watch out when they get hungry…

Speaking of being hungry, can you imagine how uncomfortable this new starter was? “No one showed me where the lunchroom or bathrooms were till the third day I worked there.”

It’s a wonder they survived to tell the tale.

The strange and suspicious locals

Onboardees can feel a bit nervous about starting a new job in a new company. Imagine how this person felt: “Arriving at a new job when the person that was currently in the job didn’t know they’d lost their job.” Awkward?

Even new starters who have a desk allocated can’t always be guaranteed a warm welcome. One employee said: “I started a new job and was given the uncleared desk of a person who had left the company as she was sick with cancer. I had to clear her desk of her personal items while her friend and colleague sat at the desk next to me.”

And when work colleagues appear friendly, there may still be good reasons for onboardees to be wary, as this new starter explains:

“At one place, I started work for a solicitor as a secretary. The other girl that was working there invited me to go downstairs for a cup of coffee, which I did. When I got back, the solicitor was very angry and said I had no right to take time out. I got fired on the first day.”

Onboarding horror stories: Lost on the road to nowhere

For some new starters just finding the right location is something of a victory. This onboardee encountered a serious challenge on their way to their destination:

“Security wouldn’t allow me through the parking gates and I was keeping all the staff from coming into work.”

While some might see that as a cause for celebration, this poor lost soul was definitely given the run around on their first day on the job:

“I arrived to what I thought was the location (the building that I was working in) and was told that I was in the wrong place and that the place I was supposed to be was 15 minutes away… When I finally arrived and completed the paperwork, I had to report to the first location to begin work.”

Onboarding horror stories: Take heed of the warnings

The danger signs can be there long before onboardees arrive at their workplace. One of those surveyed said: “My offer letter was made out to someone in a different name.” Mistaken identity? That could just be the start of a heap of woes.

While another said: “I was given a stack of papers to fill out that were copied so many times you could not read them,” proving that even paperwork can be scary at times.

But pity this poor person who was subjected to a very unpleasant and unnecessary experience: “I was put through a full body physical, including an internal exam. The company had sent the wrong paperwork. I was actually supposed to get a drug test.”

Onboarding horror stories: Escape from the horrors of onboarding

Sometimes onboardees must feel like the world is against them. How difficult can it be to get onboarding right?

“I am just in the process of starting a new job in the next couple of weeks. During this onboarding process, the HR Department have got my location wrong, given me the incorrect start date and have not sent me any information regarding expectations of starting, such as who to ask for, what time to get there, what to bring with me, etc.”

While these terrible tales may sound like horror stories designed to scare, they are actually real accounts from new starters. Onboarding is a serious matter and shocking experiences like these don’t help employees get off to a great start.

About webonboarding
webonboarding can help to take the horrors out of onboarding and support managing your onboarding process from the moment the role has been offered. Find out more at www.webonboarding.com

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.