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New on the Job? This Is How You Win the Confidence of Your Team

Tips for using your honeymoon period to create your own ‘happily ever after’

Photo collage by Author; special thanks to Ryan J Lane from Getty Images Signature for image of man at desk.

On March 2, 1987 (yes, eons ago), I started work at my first corporate job. When I arrived at my new workplace Monday morning, I was greeted at the front desk by my new boss — a super nice person, who led me upstairs to the “QA offices.” (I was hired to work in quality assurance.)

I remember it being a sea of cubicles of nondescript dirty brown/beige with high walls and narrow hallways — and no windows. My office was all the way in the back — the last cube on the left. I recall being introduced to a number of my coworkers, shaking a lot of hands, and finally arriving at my desk.

It wasn’t a new desk. Far from it. It was beat up with a threadbare office chair, mismatched file cabinet, and a small metal bookcase. It looked great to me at the time. Most important, it was mine. I could clearly tell that by the office nameplate sitting on the desk, facing the hallway opening. It said, “THE NEW GUY.”

I was amused by this until I asked the guy who sat across from me about the generic moniker. This was his response:

“Oh, the former two people didn’t last long, and you were hired quickly without any of us even talking to you. So, we’re going to hold off on getting you a real nameplate until we know you are going to stay.”

YIKES! “Going to stay” or “be allowed to stay”? I had every intention of making that job my long-term career — well, until I heard that!

So why did the two previous employees leave in a hurry? No one was willing to directly share that information. I was only told that one worked three months, the other lasted less than two weeks, and they both had exactly the same job that I was now hired to do. That was a real concern for me. Was I destined to be “strike 3”? What could I do to prevent losing my job, and what could I do to earn a real nameplate on my desk?

This is what I did

First, I asked around — a lot — not about what the previous people did wrong, but about what I could do correctly. What did my colleagues expect of me? How could I contribute to the team? I wanted to find out how to get quality work done — not to worry about what others before me did or didn’t do.

The strategy paid off. I was accepted as a hard-working, get-stuff-done kind of employee, and my coworkers let the boss know that the “new guy” was a keeper. Frankly, a lot of my coworkers DID — gently — explain what “didn’t exactly go right” with the previous occupiers of my position, and that gave me clarity on what to avoid and what to emphasize.

I was able to play to my strengths by understanding what management truly wanted from me — with help from my coworkers. Sure enough, after a month, a shiny, new, fake wood nameplate arrived with my name on it. Yay! I was now “official.” (Well, it took more than just a nameplate, but it sure made me feel good about my chances of staying on the job!)

Take advantage of your honeymoon period

So what’s the point, here? The concept here is that likely someday you will be the “new person.” You’ll take on a new job, new work, new title, etc. So you’ll be the new person, and you’ll have a chance to prove yourself, as well. Spend your “work honeymoon” time (usually the first two to four weeks) wisely. Don’t spend time trying to find out what the previous person did wrong or why they left (on their own or with assistance); but don’t ignore the history behind your new responsibilities, either.

It’s always great to learn from experience, particularly when it’s someone else’s experience! You should ask what’s expected of you and ensure you know what the position requires. You should observe others, and listen carefully to advice regarding what you can do to ensure management knows you are doing a great job! (Especially be aware of which coworkers are being recognized by management.)

Don’t listen to office gossip or to those who constantly demean management and belittle others. Focus on what you can do to be positive, stay positive, and produce positive results.

A word of advice if you’re management

Yes, I know workers value independence and autonomy. (I do; I’m sure you do, as well). However, quality customer service and market reputation still matter. Customers (B2B or B2C) will do business and purchase products from companies who exceed expectations. To rise above the competition, to make impressions on clients, requires a cohesive, coordinated and committed workforce.

To achieve that type of workplace, management also has to be vigilant, understanding and reasonable. A tyrannical manager can do a lot of damage to a company, and most certainly be a causal force for significant turnover. If upper management does not recognize and reward workers, it will find itself with a lot of “new employees” — which is not a good thing.

I once heard it said that retaining a significantly contributing employee is 10x less expensive than replacing one. (The cost of hiring a new employee, training them and the lag time for them to contribute at the rate of the former employee all comes into play here.) Keeping the excellent staff you have is the best way to ensure continued progress!

A final word to the newbie

So when you’re the new person, make your impression right away as a team player and as a contributor. Whether you’re new in management or not, if you want to stay (and perhaps get your own nameplate!), show your attitude by focusing on the positive — the positive for you and your work and your coworkers.

Ask positive, investigative questions about what you can do to excel and to exceed expectations. Don’t set a standard for negativity by probing for past information that won’t help you. Plus, avoid falling into the speculation mode by getting too many opinions on why previous workers didn’t succeed.

It’s good to gather information that will help you do your job better, but it doesn’t pay to push for answers when you can gain nothing through gossip and guesswork! Know where to draw the line — and draw that line yourself by staying positive, focused, and dedicated. It can be done. You can learn enough to use that knowledge to your advantage versus being labeled a “nosy busybody” (technical office term!).

So, here’s hoping you get that nameplate — soon — and that you keep it!

Mark S Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues. UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the lab to the market, making the world a better place.

Originally published on the IncubatorBlogger on July 27, 2021.



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