Culture Shock and Task Clarity

Culture Shock and Task Clarity

At last, you’ve arrived! Welcome aboard.

In the beginning, your new job may seem overwhelming. After all, there are new people to meet, new systems to learn, new schedules to keep, and new personalities to adjust to. In many ways, culture shock might be the best way to describe your first week.

The real key to early success with your new company boils down to the issue of task clarity. Task clarity refers not to your ability to do a certain job, but to your understanding of how the job’s defined.

Task clarity is dependent upon the quality of communication between you and the person assigning the task. Any breakdown of task clarity will result in frustration or poor performance, or worse.

To illustrate, let me tell you the story of John, a technical writer I placed with a high tech client company in California. Three weeks after John started in his new position, I called to ask him how everything was going.

“Fine,” he answered. “They love me here. I’ve completed the documentation on everything they’ve assigned me.”

Later that day, I placed a call to John’s boss, expecting him to heap praise on me for my recruiting genius. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

“Bill, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you,” said the manager. “I’m going to fire John this afternoon. It looks like we’ll have to start the search all over again.”

“Really?” I was stunned. “What seems to be the problem?”

“John hasn’t produced any of the documentation we need for our customers, and we have to get the work done to meet our deadline. If John can’t do the work, I’ll have to find someone who can.”

“That’s odd,” I said. “I talked to John this morning and he’s under the impression that the documentation he’s producing is exactly what you asked for. When was the last time the two of you sat down to discuss his assignment?”

“Oh gosh,” replied the manager, “it must have been about three weeks ago, right after he started to work here.”

“Well then, let me make a suggestion. The two of you should talk this through, because there’s obviously been a communication breakdown. As far as John’s concerned, he’s doing a terrific job based on his perception of the assignment.”