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Dr. Paul D. Baard's Motivation Matters: The motivated new employee

June 10. 2018 5:47PM

IT IS that time of year again. New graduates, job changers, summer help and interns bring many new faces to work. So, whether a move was made to start or enhance a career, managers will be observing the performance of new hires.

Making a good first impression during a job interview is one thing — it’ll help get you that position you are applying for. However, making a lasting impact after you begin employment by striking the right motivational chord can earn one a significant career advantage.

I am reminded of a college student (not at my university) who wished to pursue a career in a highly competitive field. We discussed techniques for writing effective job application letters, interviewing strategies and follow-through letters. This young lady distinguished herself each step along the way. She was offered the entry-level job of her dreams.

Regrettably, we did not spend much time going over best-conduct while beginning the job. She commuted by rail and noted that if she were to leave the firm’s office just five minutes before closing time each day, she could catch an express train and arrive home 20 minutes earlier than she was now doing. She approached her boss half-way through her first week on the job and requested these earlier “hours.” Shortly thereafter, he fired her. This seemed harsh, and she wondered how a firm could change from its enthusiastic welcome to such a different posture. We then sat down to discuss how first impressions affect an employee.

Studies have revealed that employee selection interviews are subject to temporal or time biases. For example, if an early negative occurs in the first five minutes of the interview (such as dropping a resume onto the floor), it was found that about 90 percent of such applicants were not hired. By contrast, if something positive occurred (such as noting an item in the interviewer’s office that she and the applicant had in common), 75 percent were given a job offer. Net: First impressions really matter.

Reputations are formed right from the get-go. And despite the early encouragements a company or boss may have extended, new hires are subject to close scrutiny. Employers find it easier to sever a poorly perceived connection sooner rather than later. What happened to this college graduate may seem severe, but what is the employee telegraphing about her priorities? The focus certainly seemed more on self than on company.

A new hire should respect that he or she was selected among, in many cases, a considerable number of applicants. Employees should appreciate that a firm is investing considerably in this chosen person’s career through on-the-job and possibly more formal training, let alone compensation and benefits. A better thing to hear from a newbie is “Are there any other things I can take care of before I leave for the day?” Or perhaps an individual might inquire whether he or she can assist another work unit under a deadline. Persons taking such initiatives will distinguish themselves in a positive way.

A relevant article (“My Advice to Grads: Start Mopping”) appeared recently on the Opinion Page of The Wall Street Journal (May 29, Page A17). In it, Tyler Bonin, a former Marine and now a high school teacher, describes how his volunteering to mop the floors as part of his on-campus job at his university distinguished him among the other student workers. Everybody else shunned that task. His bosses appreciated his readiness to help out, leading to an Employee of the Month award and later a promotion to the management group of the store. Mr. Bonin makes a good case for both humility and for prioritizing an employer’s needs.

But be prepared for some push-back from colleagues. You may be violating a group norm (those unwritten rules that govern conduct inside a group).

Remember, your focus should be on doing your work with distinction in the expectation you will be given increasing responsibilities. You may well be the boss of the group in the near future.

Dr. Paul P. Baard is an organizational psychologist, specializing in motivation. He has served as a professor with Fordham University, a senior line executive in the television industry, and is the lead author of a book on leadership and motivation.  He and Veronica Baard, a former managing director responsible for HR at a major international investment banking firm, head up Baard Consulting LLC, a Greater Boston firm focusing on motivation, conflict reduction and team building. Questions are welcomed at

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