5 Onboarding Fiascos From the Movies (That You Should Never Let Happen at Your Company)

June 10, 2016

A recruiter’s job doesn’t stop when a new person is hired. Once the recruiting ends, the onboarding begins. You have to make sure your new hire makes a smooth transition to their new job during a very delicate period - 22% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days, which costs the company at least three times the former employee’s salary. And in extreme nightmare scenarios, 4% of new hires bail on their new jobs after a disastrous first day!

In Hollywood, we’ve seen all kinds of hilarious and crazy onboarding mishaps, brutal training days, and weird boss-employee introductions. Here are five disastrous first days that remind us to set up new hires for success:

1. “Training Day”: The boss takes “trial by fire” a bit too literally

This entire movie is probably one of the worst first days at work ever experienced by a movie character. Ethan Hawke's impressionable young police officer spends his first day in an elite police unit trying to impress his new boss, a crooked cop played by Denzel Washington.

Suffice it to say, Hawke’s new hire orientation doesn’t go well…at all. Instead of the gunplay, beatings, and drug use to which Denzel subjects Hawke, give your new hire an orientation that includes team-building exercises, lively videos, explanations of benefits, and full-circle discussions to build relationships. If Denzel had followed that advice, this “training day” would have ended a little better for him.

2. “The Wolf of Wall Street”: A new guy thinks, “What the heck did I just get myself into?”

Near the beginning of "The Wolf of Wall Street," the eager young stock trader played by Leonardo DiCaprio is invited to lunch by his new boss, played by Matthew McConaughey. In between giving his new hire HR-unfriendly advice on stock trading (and about cocaine, prostitutes, and multi-martini lunches), McConaughey leads DiCaprio in a chanting, humming, chest-thumping session right in the middle of the restaurant.

In real-life, definitely encourage the boss to take a new hire to lunch to show them the ropes. Just politely ask him to take it easy on the chest thumping and R-rated wisdom. 

3. “Men in Black”:  When you alienate a new hire

You can say this about the secret government alien-control agency known as the Men in Black: they don't spend a lot of time training their newbies. Instead, they seem to believe that to teach a baby to swim, you have to throw it in the deep end of the pool.

Speaking of baby, on Will Smith's first day as an agent in "Men in Black," Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) makes Will (Agent J) deliver an alien baby. The results are… a little messy. Don’t give your new hire too much on the first day. It’s okay to establish a 30-day plan to allow your new employee to ease into his new role. Delivering alien babies can start on Day 31.

4. “The Devil Wears Prada”: Heavenly hire meets the boss from hell

In Anne Hathaway’s less-than-auspicious first day on the job at a high-end fashion magazine, she gets a thorough dressing down by her new boss, Meryl Streep's titular "Devil," for a relatively minor faux pas.

What if a hiring manager had provided Streep with a “Best Boss Ever” checklist (which LinkedIn recommends in our Onboarding in a Box, e-book) that explains how to acquaint newbies with the company culture. Could the confrontation have been avoided? Probably not, but most bosses aren’t “The Devil."

5. “Inception”: Impatience makes for a first day nightmare

There's always one newbie who just can't wait to show off on the first day. In "Inception," Leonardo Dicaprio's character (yes, this is his second movie on the list. If this acting thing doesn't work out for him, maybe he could become a recruiter) shows Ellen Page how to build dream realities. She gets a little ahead of herself and takes things a wee bit too far.

Remember that some new hires might be too eager to hit the ground running to listen to your orientation. So be sure to remind them it’s okay to take things slow at first. As the old saying goes, you gotta crawl before you incept.

Want to make sure your new hire has a first day that's so smooth, it'd make for a boring movie? Check out our LinkedIn e-book, Onboarding in a Box, for tips and suggestions on how to welcome people into your company — with minimal chest-thumping.  

*Image from Men in Black

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.