We often associate fall with new beginnings, probably because the kids go back to school, and we shake off our slower summer routines. Whether you’ve taken a job at a new company or transferred to a new department, your work life can feel just as uneasy as a kid’s first day at a new school. Here are some tips to help you cope.
Be an observer. Watch the players. Is the communication open or closed? Do they accept new ideas or are they fixed to the status quo? What are the rules – spoken or unspoken?
Learn the organizational structure. Taking the formal power structure at face value is a mistake. An admin may actually be a power-wielding gatekeeper for your supervisor. Her power to filter most communication to the department head may make her the second-most powerful person in the department. Be observant, and discretely learn the informal hierarchy.
Don’t sprint right out of the gate. A career is a marathon, not a dash. If you suggest changes too quickly – even if your ideas are good ones – you can alienate your co-workers and make it difficult to gain their support. Begin by making small suggestions to see how they are received before you make sweeping modifications.
Identify the change agents in the department. Size up the mind-set of the power brokers. You want to make suggestions to those who are most receptive to new ideas. Select your audience wisely. Remember that the real decision makers may not be the people with fancy titles.
Watch what you say, and to whom you say it. If the department is tight-knit, what you say to one employee may reach the entire group within one trip to the water cooler. Determine the real lines of communication.
Don’t force your way in. If the group is tight, establishing yourself will take time and patience. Be kind and friendly, and let the group come to you. If there is a clique, you need to decide whether you want to become a part of it. Sometimes you find opposing cliques and you are placed in the uncomfortable position of having to cast your lot with one or the other.
Mulling at Work – Relevant Episode
Stephanie Street talks about why America’s workforce is embracing change and taking risks by “rapid-fire job hopping”. Hear the episode here.
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