Tuesday, May 31, 2011
We are intensely territorial at heart. Our reptilian brains are keyed to be suspicious of "intruders," and to fear what we don't know. Your first few days in a new job, you're being scrutinized under a microscope and are only tentatively welcome. Use your Emotional Intelligence to survive the first 100 hours! Here are 11 things NOT to do.
1. Don't FORGET PEOPLE'S NAMES.
If you do nothing else, remember people's names. When introduced, wait expectantly for a cue. If they stick out their hand, shake it. if they don't, just smile and say the usual.
2. Don't MOVE IN TOO FAST.
Take it easy bringing your "things" to the office. Save the photos and personal items for a while. Place your yogurt discretely at the back of the refrigerator. Don't grab any old cup from the coffee room, or start making the coffee until you see how it's done. It's a reptilian, territorial thing. You're moving into THEIR turf.
3. Don't TALK TOO MUCH, REVEAL TOO MUCH, OR EXPRESS UNNECESSARY FEELINGS OR OPINIONS.
Keep your conversation light, neutral, and just enough to be friendly. Sure as you get loose, you'll step on someone's toes. You don't know yet who just got divorced, who's married to an Italian, and who's opposed to daycare. As soon as you say, "Well personally I hate..." the next person who comes in will have that, do that, like that, or live there.
Use "neutral" language and tone of voice, like the anchor people do. Avoid any slang or colloquialisms in this new country. The King's English: what you learned in school.
4. Don't ASSUME ANYTHING.
Maybe everyone leaves at 5:31 on the dot; maybe they don't. Keep a low profile and pay attention to what others are doing. You're moving into an established culture and they have a set way of doings things whether they're mindful of it or not. You want to fit in, not stand out. Remember the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
5. Don't OVERDO IT. THAT THREATENS PEOPLE.
Save the designer stuff and status symbols. Appearing "better than," in any way, will backfire on you later. If you drive a brand new expensive something or other, park at the back of the lot, and don't advertise it. If you just got back from a barefoot cruise, or just bought a new home, save it for later. You don't know the circumstances of those around you. The person you're telling may have just filed bankruptcy.
And speaking of parking ... one first day on a job, with uncanny bad form, I actually managed to park in the boss' unmarked, but definitely claimed, parking place. "How lucky," I thought. "I can park right in front of the door."
6. Don't VOLUNTEER.
They don't trust you yet. "Get" that. Don't volunteer to make the coffee or make the nightly run to FedEx. You could poison them. You might never make it to the FedEx office. (I am not kidding.)
7. Don't MAKE IT TOO HARD, OR TOO EASY.
Pace your initial tasks. If you start out blazing, you'll be held to that pace forever, or you may threaten others who do what you do. If you go too slow, you might not be there long. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
8. Don't SAY 'NO'.
If you're asked to join them for lunch, pitch in for a baby shower gift, "grab the phone," or do a task for someone, say "yes." If something goes against the grain (and there's always one person in an office who tries to make life hell for the new guy it seems), file it for later. First you need to find out how disputes are handled.
The good manager, the one with the high EQ who knows people, and knows HER people, will tell you, "If so-and-so gives you any trouble, just be nice. Then come tell me and I'll take care of it." The inept manager won't know, or isn't willing to deal with it, and you'll have to figure it out for yourself. How do you do this? By having your antennae out. Observe and process.
EXCEPTION: Occasionally in an office you're ignored for the first few weeks, except by the loser, who will ask you to join him or her for lunch, trying to build an alliance. In that case, you come up with an excuse ("Sorry, gotta run to the bank at noon.")
9. Don't CRITIQUE, CRITICIZE, or APPEAR TO BE COMPLAINING.
You'll notice things that could be done differently and better, but if you speak at this point it will sound like complaining or criticizing. If it's too hot or too cold, for instance, wait it out. The "new kid on the block" isn't entitled to anything. You can straighten the place out later.
10. Don't VIOLATE PACK BEHAVIOR.
You watch the Discovery Channel, don’t you? Well, picture the troop of monkeys, i.e., if you’re not the alpha male, you’re just one of the pack, so start grinning and grooming the others.
11. Don’t UNDERESTIMATE THE EFFECT OF INITIAL CONDITIONS.
In physics it’s called “sensitive initial conditions." It means the way “it" (any system) begins makes a huge and permanent difference. Think of what you say and do as being broadcast with a loudspeaker into a cavern which will reverberate and echo for months. There’s not such thing as an “innocent comment" when you’re new, and if you show up in a bright print dress when everyone else is in neutral and pants, you’ll reinvent the term “sticking out like a sore thumb."
The onus (hard work) is on you. They will be ADJUSTING to you. You must ADAPT to them (a far stronger concept). When in doubt, get coaching! You want to get off to a good start.