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About honeymoons and hangovers: How to keep employees satisfied over time?

About honeymoons and hangovers: How to keep employees satisfied over time?

Starting a new job or joining a new organisation often brings a sense of excitement. When taking the new challenge, people get the feeling of moving in the right direction. Endless possibilities are suddenly at their fingertips and their future looks bright. In literature, this feeling of enthusiasm and positivity at the beginning of a new, professional career is better known as the honeymoon effect.

During this honeymoon phase, employees are filled with a sense of motivation and positive energy. They bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to the table and are often willing to go the extra mile to make a good, first impression. They have a clear desire to make a positive impact, to prove they are worthy of the job.

For organizations, it is important to recognize this effect and maintain it over time, since it has multiple benefits at the employee level, such as higher productivity, increased innovative and creative behaviour, improved employee retention and higher employee engagement.


Unfortunately, we see that the honeymoon phase is -in most cases- only temporary. The initial enthusiasm of employees gradually fades away over time. People become more seasoned within their role, encounter unexpected challenges, and face the realities of their work environment, which does not turn out to be so rosy at times.

This transition from the honeymoon phase to a more stable and realistic work experience is often referred to as the post-honeymoon or hangover effect. This phenomenon is not universal, nor does it appear to a fixed timeline. Some employees may continue to experience high levels of engagement and satisfaction even after a long period over time, while others may experience the effect sooner.

Unfortunately, we do see that this effect is associated with some negative outcomes, such as a decrease in motivation and engagement, higher employee turnover, lower job satisfaction and fewer collaboration projects between colleagues. Organizations can minimize these outcomes by actively working on employee engagement and satisfaction throughout an employee's tenure.

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To reduce the post-honeymoon effect and maintain a positive work environment, organizations can take several steps. The following initiatives have a proven significant, positive effect on job satisfaction and help to ensure long-term employee engagement:

  • Realistic job preview
    During the early stages of joining an organisation, employees often have specific expectations and high anticipations. However, as they settle into their roles and face the realities of the work environment, they may start to notice discrepancies with their initial image and their expectations may not be met. This misalignment between expectations and reality can lead to a decrease in enthusiasm. By giving employees a realistic picture of the job from the recruitment process onward, you avoid unrealistic expectations and the disappointment that comes with them.

  • Future perspective
    During one-to-one meetings, make sure there is time for giving "feedforward" next to “feedback”. Do not only communicate about the past or present, but also consider the future as a subject of discussion. Are there certain projects that can be taken up by the employee? Where are there still some career opportunities? Are there certain training or promotion opportunities available? … By offering such opportunities, employees get the feeling they can craft their own jobs.

  • Personal development opportunities
    Over time, the novelty of the job fades, and the daily routine becomes more predictable. This routine can lead to boredom and reduced excitement. Therefore, it is important to offer opportunities for employees to learn and grow within their roles. This can include training programs, mentoring, or access to resources that encourage skill development and career advancement.
  • Recognition and appreciation
    Implement systems that recognize and appreciate employees' contributions. This can include regular performance evaluations, bonuses, promotions, or public acknowledgments of achievements. Recognizing and rewarding employees' efforts make sure they feel valued, which leads to greater engagement and commitment.

  • Celebrating Milestones
    When certain objectives are achieved at the collective level, it is important to pay enough attention to them. Celebrating milestones and shared successes are a clear way to strengthen the connection with the organisation, which in turn also benefits retention. Don’t forget that non-financial surprises can sometimes make the biggest impact!


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Berman, T. (2023). Employee Retention: Beyond the Honeymoon Phase. Zippia for Employers.
Lytle, T. (2021). When the Honeymoon’s Over. SHRM.
Boswell, W. R., Shipp, A. J., Payne, S. C., & Culbertson, S. S. (2009). Changes in newcomer job satisfaction over time: Examining the pattern of honeymoons and hangovers. Journal of Applied Psychology.