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3 Steps to Detox New Hires from Toxic Cultures and Bad Bosses


3 Steps to Detox New Hires from Toxic Cultures and Bad Bosses

Every new hire brings emotional baggage. When interviewing them, companies should imagine they are dragging behind them a large suitcase of emotional sludge. If you hire them, this bag is coming with them. The more experience they have, the bigger the bag will be.

Obviously in the interview(s), they won't talk about their baggage. They'll be confident, optimistic, and aligned with what your company needs. However in many cases, remember that they are leaving some situation behind, and chances are, you'll probably never know the full story.

Perhaps they were undervalued, and never received the promotion, raise, or recognition they earned. Perhaps they were emotionally abused by a boss or co-worker who was a bully. Maybe they weren't the target of any specific behavior but they were subjected to a culture of dishonesty, intimidation, or mistrust. 

People don't leave great situations. 

In several client organizations, I'm working with the CEO to help them acclimate key hires to their cultures. 

Example One: Key hire was vetted for cultural fit and well-integrated into the company. 

In my first client organization, I was an intricate part of the hiring process, and vetted candidates for cultural fit. This particular candidate worked at a Fortune 50 organization where the leaders talked about culture and values, but never lived them. Our candidate had virtually no support, mentorship,  leadership, or sponsorship. Due to a merger, she was expected to absorb several additional responsibilities that weren't aligned with her strengths. She felt very alone. So, after many years of loyalty, she left. 

Example Two: Key hire was interviewed/onboarded with no discussion about culture, and placed into the company with little direction.

In my second client organization, my client (a partner in a large firm) inherited a new hire with tremendous potential but serious emotional baggage. He worked at a firm with a toxic culture and abusive boss who stripped him of any confidence. 

Different scenarios, same challenge.


In both scenarios, the new hires have tremendous potential. They have the right skill sets, and are excited to contribute to the company mission. However, my clients must expend substantial time with their new hires disarming their defenses, gaining trust, and building confidence. They arrived with serious emotional baggage - even more than my clients or their new hires realized.

Unloading the Baggage

Here are the steps we are following to unload the emotional baggage so they can live up to their potential.

Create a supportive environment. 

If your culture isn't already supportive, make it supportive. Ensure new hires have been set up for success with a strong on-boarding program. Ask for volunteers to grab lunch with your new employee at least through their first week of employment. Nothing disengages a new hire faster than sitting alone at a desk while others are hanging out together. 

Establish frequent communication and check-ins. 

If regularly scheduled check-ins aren't part of your leadership style, add them to your schedule or delegate them to a leader with strong communication.  Both of my CEO clients have weekly check-ins with their new employees to ensure they feel supported and set up for success. In addition, one of my clients has asked me to do weekly calls with their new hire (who is heading up Operations) to provide a confidential outlet to discuss any issues. 

Give them time to acclimate to your culture. 

Especially if your new hire is coming from a toxic environment, he/she may need some time to simply decompress. In the case of my client, his new hire previously started every day with anxiety and some dread about going to work. It took a few weeks for that feeling to dissipate and eventually be replaced with positive feelings. 

Employees inevitably must unlearn certain behaviors when they change companies. Being aware of their previous environments and cultures will help to ensure a smooth transition to yours, and set them up for a long-term career with you.


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