Work ‘love bombing’: overpromising and underdelivering

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By Anthony Wolny | 25th July 2023 | 7 min read

Love bombing is a term typically associated with the dating world, referencing a person who offers excessive praise and gestures in a bid to manipulate their potential partner and create feelings of debt. 

Perhaps a concept detached from the working world, right? Wrong.

Recently, the BBC compared traditional, romantic love bombing to the recruitment methods of many UK businesses and external agencies.

The intensity of lavishing flattery and compliments found in love bombing was linked to the startlingly strong pursuit of candidates.

Applicants are thrust into sped-up recruitment processes as businesses desperately try to fill empty vacancies, being promised the world only for the opportunity to fall flat once contracts are signed.

Don’t overpromise and underdeliver

We get it.

The recruitment landscape is tough and has been for the last few years, with many businesses having multiple open vacancies, which subsequently place added pressure on existing staff.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) found more than 40% of companies with ten or more staff are still struggling to recruit.

Additionally, the ONS also reported that from March to May 2023, the total number of vacancies in the UK was 1,051,000.

The pressure may be on to get people through the door, but making grand claims only for them to fall flat will result in one thing: frustrated new hires who inevitably leave.

Career Coach Samorn Selim compares this overenthusiastic recruitment approach to love bombing at the early stages of a relationship, stating: “Highly specialised candidates continue to have a lot of options and are looking at things beyond pay packages, such as company culture. Recruiters will do their best to cast open roles in the most favourable light and make the candidates feel special, with the goal of moving them along in the process.

“This approach, while generally not malicious, can still have detrimental effects. The pressure and flattery can set up workers to fail, either staying at the ready for roles that never materialise or winding up in jobs where promises don't match the reality of day-to-day office culture.”

Don’t just show up as your “best self”

Typically, corporate love bombing isn’t a calculated behaviour aiming to trap and deceive people.

Like with the dating world, it’s simply showing up as your “best self” to try make a good impression.

But just as in the dating world, glossing over reality and presenting a false narrative may get you a second date (or, in this case, a new employee), but it’s only a matter of time before the illusion crumbles and you’re dumped!

There’s no point promising a number of perks, benefits and cultural mumbo-jumbo if it can’t realistically be delivered. 

In the BBC article, they spoke with someone who recently faced corporate love bombing, being promised the world during the hiring process, including perks such as flexible working.

But upon accepting the job offer, the candidate was greeted with a lifeless onboarding experience, the truth that working from home is not a company policy and an unnerving workplace culture.

Unsurprisingly, they left after eight days.

Creating an environment people actually want to work in

All is not lost.

By no means are we advising you adopt an unenthusiastic stance.

Of course, the interview process should be exciting and filled with passion! However, what we advise is the next steps and future employment lives up to the hype.

Now, I don’t know the intricacies of each reader’s business, but what I can offer is some general guidance based on the learnings from the above love bombing examples.

Make onboarding special

Starting a new job is scary.

New colleagues, new managers, new tasks, new responsibilities, new ways of working.

As an employer, it’s your job to empower new starters and give them the tools needed to thrive with confidence.

So, what can you do?

From a managerial perspective, the first few days, if not weeks, should take new starters through all the basics, covering areas such as company policies, benefits, expectations and job-specific training.

Also, take the opportunity to introduce new starters to team members and other key stakeholders.

Top tip: before a new starter joins, keep in regular contact, helping them feel secure and supported even before their formal first day. Use HR software to send across key company policies and any documentation they can fill in. If they have a relatively long notice period, stay in touch and book regular catch-ups.

Connected HR Solutions: we put people at the centre of our feature-rich HR solutions

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Clearly communicate the important stuff             

Can an employee work overtime? Can working hours be altered? Can people work from home (WFH)? Is there a bonus available, and if so, how do you become eligible? Can I take time in lieu (TOIL)? What progression opportunities are there?

For many people – especially those in desirable job roles – these questions can make or break whether they join a new company.

If you don’t have policies on the above, I strongly advise you take some time to determine what’s right for your business, formalise it in an official policy and communicate it with current/future employees.

More content: How to protect staff and your business with the right HR policies

Read here
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Areas such as flexible working or benefits & compensation are front-of-mind for many, so when they have questions, you need answers.

Also, this goes without saying, but don’t replicate the love bombing example from earlier – nothing disgruntles employees more than promising them something important and retracting the offer.

Top tip: cloud HR software enables you to store all company policies in one accessible place, making it far easier to run through them during onboarding + employees can easily go back and refer to them.

Create something desirable, and the people will come

We understand the pressure is on to fill empty seats, but panic hiring and love bombing are like putting a plaster on a broken leg – a temporary fix which doesn’t actually do anything.

When the focus is on getting new people through the door, it can seem counterintuitive to refocus on your internal working environment.

But creating a company backed by modern processes which focuses on supporting and nurturing is the best way to retain current staff and attract new people.

We cover how you can create such an offering in our recent blog which you can read here: paying attention to employee retention.