In the past, when a new member of staff started work, their identity would be cloaked in a veil of mystery until that first day when they turned up, easily identifiable for being early and looking nervous, lost and too-neatly dressed.
Now, however, I could tell you the inside leg measurement or the preferred brand of mascara of any joining member of staff, weeks before I have ever been formally introduced to them.
The explanation: well, online-stalking. Obvs.
As soon as the all-staff email announces the name of the new appointee, dozens of simultaneous Google searches spring into action.
For a career and educational synopsis of the newcomer, LinkedIn generally provides the most reliable source of information: “Doesn’t seem to stay with any one job for more than a few months”; “Oh, only got a 2:2 from Nottingham Trent”. Instagram is a good source for spying a recent selfie; Facebook might provide a breakdown of hobbies and affiliations––“Oh, a Wolves supporter”; and Twitter will reveal little psychological nuggets of personality, politics and perversions. By the time the nervous, lost, too-neatly dressed newbie actually physically appears in front of me for the first time, I know more about them than I do about people whom I consider my closest friends.
Which raises an interesting moral dilemma. Do you reveal all this knowledge you possess about them? Or do you make out that this is the first time you have ever seen their face, even though you are already thinking that you preferred the haircut they had on Google Images from 2010.
My normal approach is to feign ignorance, but I am invariably caught out by displaying an instance of superior knowledge, which I should not normally possess: “What were you doing in Cambodia?”; “Did you name your son Dylan after Bob or Thomas?”; “Have you ever considered changing the paint-scheme of your living room walls from red to peach?”
There needs to be established a recognised company code of etiquette to cope with these kind of circumstances.
But, perhaps, I am over-thinking a potentially awkward social situation. The reality is that I will only ever exchange two words with the actual, physical embodiment of the new joiner, and my cyber-stalking will remain my principal source of contact with them, until the point when they live up to my initial LinkedIn assessment of their character––“Doesn’t seem to stay with any one job for more than a few months”––and they leave to go and work for someone else.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree doesn’t tend to expend much effort getting to know newbies.