The Forty-Five Day Feeling Of Failure Phenomenon

by | Dec 10, 2018

The 45 day fealing of failure

In regards to the alliteration in the title…I’m sorry. I seriously could NOT help myself.

With that said…

The following is based on nothing more than my personal experiences in the workforce – there’s no science behind it (that I’m aware of, anyway), which means that it’s all anecdotal. But…after 25+ years of always being somewhere in the hiring realm – be it as a new hire myself, someone who’s training a new hire, or as the manager of a new hire – it’s a phenomenon I’ve seen time and again, and it usually occurs right around the 6 week (aka, 45-day) mark.

In case the title didn’t already give it away, the phenomenon in question is the feeling of failure. And, I’m not just talking about a general “yikes, I had kind of a bad day” feeling but, instead, an overwhelmingly complete and total feeling that you’re failing at virtually every single thing that you touch as soon as you start your work day.

I’ve been in this spot several times in my life. I’ve watched more people go through it than I can count. No matter what the job or circumstance, the outcome is pretty much always the same – right around that 45 day mark is when employees start to feel like they’ve hit a wall. Like everything has been going great and now, suddenly, it’s all just gone to hell in a hand basket.

My personal experiences have always gone a little something like this:

  1. I get a new job.
  2. I start learning my new job.
  4. I’m learning more about my new job – the in’s and out’s of the company, the department, my coworkers, my duties, everyone else’s duties…WOW…it’s a LOT of stuff! But, I’ve got this…I’m good.
  5. I’m learning even MORE about my {not quite so new anymore} job and, slowly but surely, the training wheels are being taken away…I’m starting to do stuff on my own now!
  6. I love my new job!
  7. The training wheels come off and I’m pretty much on my own – I’ve made a few mistakes, but everyone is telling me how great I’m doing and I’m feeling pretty darn good about everything.
  8. Life comes to a screeching halt – I somehow stop being able to retain information.
      1. Things that people told me 2 days ago must have gone in one ear and right out the other because I don’t even remember the conversation.
      2. I start taking even more detailed notes in an attempt to never forget anything ever again.
      3. It now takes me 10 times longer to do things because I have to scroll through 19 pages of notes to make sure that I’m doing it {whatever “it” is} right. Somehow I manage to screw it up anyway.
      4. Little mistakes and missteps start to pile up {or so it seems} until all it feels like I’m doing is one giant, nine hour long mistake with a brief break for lunch somewhere in the middle.
  9. I like my new job?
  10. Please don’t fire me please don’t fire me please don’t fire me I promise I’ll do better please don’t fire me…

Is this sounding at all familiar? Maybe just a little? If so, then welcome to the 45 day feeling of failure phenomenon – the point at which virtually every new employee hits a massive wall in regards to information retention and their learning curve seems to take a sudden nosedive.

I’ve been at this point and I know what it feels like – horrible!

If you are the employee in question (aka, the newbie), please take heart – you’re NOT alone! But, what you need to do – and what you need to do ASAP – is talk to your coworkers, the person(s) who trained you, your immediate supervisor…someone…about how you’re feeling. If those around you – specifically your supervisors – aren’t regularly and routinely checking in with you then you’ll have to take the initiative and approach them.

Now, if you’re the immediate supervisor, manager, director, etc – basically anyone who has any sort of leadership-type contact with the new employee(s) in question – then you hopefully took a BIG hint from the preceding three sentences.


This means:

  1. While the training wheels are still on, try to utilize the: see, do, teach method of learning – they watch it, they do it, they “teach” it (physically walk you through the process) back to you…for each and every new item there is to learn.
  2. If you’re not the one doing the initial training, check in with with those new employees FREQUENTLY (several times per week at least).
  3. If you ARE the one doing the initial training, please, please, PLEASE continue to check in with the employee(s) daily once the training wheels have come off.
  4. LET THE TRAINEE know that you know that the aforementioned phenomenon is going to happen and that it will be OK. There’s a lot to be said for simply knowing that your boss knows you’re not a complete and utter failure.
  5. Do a “deep check” at the 30 day and 45 day mark. How are they feeling about things? Is there anything that could help them do their job better? What have they learned so far and what are they still unsure about? This is basically like a 90 day review, but in reverse – instead of the company telling the employee what they’ve done well and what they need to work on to succeed, the employee has the opportunity to provide feedback to the company in regards to what they feel is working well, what they still need help with, things they feel could be improved in the training process, etc.

When it’s all said and done, what it boils down to is this…have you created an environment where the employee knows you believe in them and knows that you “have their back”, or are you perpetuating an environment where the new employees feel like they’re basically left flapping in the wind with no help or support to be found? Irrespective of what you may *think* an employee needs to succeed, a supportive, encouraging environment that goes a long, LONG way when it comes to both employee morale AND employee retention.

So, don’t be “that boss” that drives new hires out the door; instead, be the boss that is inviting, open, and genuinely cares about those who work for them. Will you get burned by it from time to time? Probably.

Will it be worth it in the long run? Definitely.

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