New Co-worker? Hmm…

Nothing stimulates conversation in the office like the impending début of a new co-worker. Well, okay; maybe the juicy bits about what led to the dismissal of their predecessor takes precedent. Still, the buzz about the office will create some energy.

People will wonder first of all who it is – guy or woman. Then it’ll be what they’ll bring to the team. Are they fresh out of university, a year or two away from retirement or somewhere in the middle? What kind of personality will the new person have and will they fit in or not? Are they going to add to the chemistry or shake things up. Whoever walks in the door on Monday morning will not just be new and different, they’ll represent the direction Management expects to move in. After all, if the person arriving is young and inexperienced, they might be wanting new blood, new ideas and fresh thinking. Conversely, bring in a staunch conservative thinker and the message is to stay the course.

A new co-worker in the workplace is interesting to most people but none more so than the employee who is destined to share their office or sit next to in the adjoining cubicle. I mean come on, the new employee will be looking around and taking their cues from the existing staff around them right?

Now unless you’ve been off on a 4 week vacation and you arrive to a, “Welcome aboard newbie!” banner in your work area, you can pretty much figure most employers are going to give you a heads up when the person is assigned to be your new mate. You might even get invited in for one of those informal chats. The chat? Come on, you know; the talk where you’re flattered a bit and then told that because of your experience and personality, you’re to take the newbie under your wing and spend some time with them making sure they fit in and get the low down on ways and practices.

So there you are Monday morning with a little more starch in your shirt, your desk a tad more organized than usual and you’ve made sure you brushed AND flossed with more attention before leaving home. You’re flattered perhaps that you’ve been selected to be the welcoming committee and Tour Guide. So why is it you feel nervous, a little more pressure, maybe even intimidated? You’re the one with the seniority here and you’re the one with the ideas; the go-to gal or guy.

Yep, you’ve got this unusual and unnatural tension rising from somewhere and it’s got nothing to do with the extra bran you consumed. Nope, this pressure is stemming from the unknown about to walk in and assert themselves into your space. Maybe they’ll know more than you about trends, technology or have better connections. Could be they have been brought in to shake things up, and who knows what implications that could hold for you.

Wait a minute; hold on here. Is this guesswork doing you any good? Nope, letting your imagination run wild with possibilities and projecting your fears onto some newcomer is hardly fair. They are likely stressed (in a good way it’s hoped) and intimidated by the thought of meeting all new people. In fact, they might be worried they’ll forget people’s names .7 seconds after hearing them and then look foolish going around saying, “And you are…? Sorry….” for the next week to everyone they think they should know.

You’ve got responsibility here; it’s your job to be the face of the organization, set the tone, introduce this newbie to the gang and get them settled in. The last thing you should be doing at this point – without even having met them yet – is planning on sabotaging their first days so they don’t get off to a good start. To do so might just backfire on you anyhow, and soon you could be made to feel pretty bad by your own co-workers who don’t share your suspicious nature.

Think back to when you started. What did you want and need to know? Okay so where do you put your belongings like overcoats, boots, a purse or wallet? Is there a key for your desk and if so, who has duplicates that work it? Where’s the washrooms and can you use company equipment for your personal use – such as wi-fi, downloading content from the web onto your computer or just checking out a YouTube video? Best to ask and not presume.

You’re going to be shaking their hand any moment; likely when you’re called down to the bosses office and introduced to your shadow. Shades of your teenage years come back to you as you recall the responsibility of having to show some distant  cousin around and essentially made their guardian. Ha! That wasn’t such a great time now was it? This has to be better – doesn’t it?

There they are, seated across from the boss and they look approachable. They rise, shake your hand and flash a warm smile; you distrust them instinctively. No! Bad you! No! Give them a chance. Years from now you might be relying on this co-worker for help keeping your job! Why they could hold seasons tickets, be related to the CEO or have plans to treat you to lunch. Well they could!

New co-worker? Welcome them with sincerity and get to know them. It’ll work out.


Invest Yourself In The New Hire

Every organization experiences turnovers in their staff contingent as part of their natural aging process. People retire, take leave, are fired, have their hours reduced or positions eliminated. Similarly new applicants are hired, temps fill in on short assignments, positions are created, expansion plans are implemented, new locations needing staffing spring up.

Once upon a time you yourself were the newest hire; the fresh blood, the one people wondered about and made a point of welcoming on board and getting to know. You yourself in those early days hoped you’d be accepted and welcomed; you’d survive the first few awkward days and then make it past probation until you were eventually hired on permanently and became a fixture.

I’ve worked in both unionized and non-unionized environments and in both scenarios a common practice is for the newly hired to breathe a little easier when others are hired after them. When others are hired later, it means there’s a little more perceived job security if things got slow and someone had to be cut loose. The faster you made it up the seniority ladder, the faster you could stop worrying and stressing about the possibility of having your job taken away as it would usually fall to someone hired after you.

Do you remember what it was like when you were hired? How about your first day or first week? What was going through your head as you headed out your front door on those earliest of days?

It’s likely that any new employee is wondering about much the same things as you did. Will they like me? Where will I sit? What kind of boss will I have? Will anyone invite me to lunch this week? Should I brown bag it or take along some lunch money just in case? Will the job be what they said it would be or turn into something I didn’t expect?

Yes, new employees often think about the same kind of issues, have the same concerns and hope the same kind of good things happen to them. A new job is a brand new chapter to write; a fresh start where you can put any past problems behind you. Sure there’s new stresses and challenges but this is what drives many of us to excel and grow.

Now move ahead to the present day. Here you are with your reputation established and no longer one of the new employees by a longshot. You’ve carved out your place, forged those relationships and know your environment and how to thrive in it. New employees pop up from time to time of course; some staying for the long haul and some gone before you really get to know them.

There’s a lot of upside in taking the time to warmly greet and welcome new staff to the organization in general and your department specifically. Your reputation is closely aligned with the reputation of the company you work for, and so it follows that employees – all employees – impact on that company reputation by default and on you by association. As a seasoned or senior employee, you can influence new staff in how they think and act when they are relatively new.

Even when a new employee comes in with a wealth of knowledge and experience gathered elsewhere, you can impact how they settle in and what they learn and need to know about how to act while working in your workplace. Could be that how you and your fellow employees go about their work is unique and different from what the new employee has experienced. Changing their mindset, ensuring their practices match those of your organization could be critical before they make mistakes or do things the way they’ve always done them elsewhere.

Another benefit of speaking with someone early in their new jobs could be sharing your own philosophy in the hopes that they may adopt yours completely or at least accept your philosophy as yours and respect it when interacting with you. Now I don’t mean you scheduled a time to talk and tell them you’re going to lay out your philosophy; you might do this in fact or you may just lead by example.

When I have had new staff start where I work, I make a point of setting aside some time to work together with them; offering to share some of my resources and my time should they need any advice, direction or support. Sometimes I like to ask new employees what their philosophy of service is. The most common reaction I get is an initially stunned look; as though they’ve never pondered the question or articulated an answer. That’s a good thing because now they’re thinking big picture.

You see to me, how I  and my colleagues deliver services is important. I like knowing who among those on my team thinks like me, who has a different take on things and how small or large is the difference in approach between us. I encourage new employees to listen to the opinions of others, watch, learn and soak up all the various ways we each do our jobs. The new person brings their own skills, ideas and philosophy with them of course, and this is always interesting for me working to learn from them too.

Make you new employees welcome and embrace what they bring as the chemistry changes on your team or in your workplace.

New Employee Orientations

Whether you are a relatively new hire or have many years of experience working for your current employer, you probably have a pretty good idea of what new employees go through in your organization as part of their orientation.

In some companies it’s a quick tour, multiple introductions to people you will work with, and it’s over when the tour ends at your work area. Now depending on your specific job and the level at which you are brought on board, you could contrast that experience with being shown not just other employees in your immediate area, but perhaps your orientation includes flights to other cities, perhaps countries, where your organization has other operations.

Almost a zero chance of flights to other operations if your job is Forklift Operator in the back warehouse. However, there are some positions higher up in organizations that do require new employees to introduce themselves to other people and other departments world-wide.

For you specifically though, what does your company orientation look like? Unfortunately, it sometimes depends on who is providing the orientation. If your organization is very small, it’s likely that the same person does the orientation; perhaps the business owner. A business owner will undoubtedly share what is of vital importance to him or her, and while they know you will likely never have the same level of passion for the company that they do, they do hope to impart some of that enthusiasm so that you impact their customers in a similar way that they themselves would.

Larger organizations might sit you down with a thick manual to read. Policies, procedures, initializing each one as you read it as proof later on that they imparted this knowledge to you in the event it is ever questioned. It could be that there is some kind of designated protocol that all employees go through too. Some in-house training on computer software, practices and safety awareness training. While some organizations insist all employees go through this training before they ever start the actual work, there are some that put their employees to work right away, only having the mandatory training once there are a sufficient number of new hires to make the training a group experience.

Much depends on when you enter an organization too. If the company is undergoing a change in leadership at senior levels., it could be that the change impacts on front-line orientations. Those senior people exiting or entering new positions may be the ones responsible for new orientations. If you are coming on board as these changes occur, your experience may differ significantly than that of others hired prior to you or sometime later. Your orientation might be left to your immediate Supervisor, and that might not be their area of expertise or experience.

Let’s be honest and acknowledge that in many organizations there is no orientation at all. No, sometimes a person is hired, arrives at the office and is shown their desk, the pile of files on it, and is told to get at it. Aside from being introduced to a co-worker who explains where the washrooms are and how breaks and lunch work, orientation is over. The tour, (if there was one) would be your work area and the office of the person in charge. You may scoff at this, but I know of several situations from my clients first-hand where this was their experience.

What an orientation could be however, is an opportunity to integrate new employees into the organization’s culture, vision, mission or philosophy and how all of that translates into the client or customer experience. Good orientations ensure that new hires get consistent supportive training, levels of initial responsibility that don’t put clients or the organization itself at high levels of risk. There are safeguards in place, like supervisory monitoring of all decisions and paperwork that are designed to protect the organization, the client or customer and the new hire themselves.

Now it may be that an organization has the relative luxury of off-site, secured training areas. These spaces ensure that the new hires don’t negatively impact on the day-to-day operations of the company and allow new staff to learn in simulation what they will need shortly when on the job. There are many companies that don’t have this luxury. Much of the time new staff job shadow a seasoned worker, learning things on the fly, being shown how to do the job.

A company has to decide on what is the best way to educate their new staff, getting maximum production value quickly in a cost-effective manner. While it might be nice to have two month’s paid training in a simulated environment, that just isn’t practical in much of the real world. Employers know that new hires can’t be as productive and therefore as valuable as someone who has been in the job for a year or more. New staff on the other hand, hope to be paid their full salary on day 1 even though they are just learning.

Orientations are exciting, stressful, packed with learning opportunities and the pressure to absorb the information being taught. It’s also a time to find out how the new employee impacts on the chemistry of the workplace and the workplace chemistry on the new employee.

Make the most of workplace orientation whether you are the new hire or the organization.



Before Starting A New Job

Congratulations! You’ve been hired and you’ve got a few days before you’re due to start your new job. There are a few things you should do between now and then.

For starters, make sure you’ve shared your good news with all the stakeholders you involved right from the beginning. Whether an email sent out to them, a phone call, a personal card or notification on your social media platform, let everybody know the news. After all, whether you told 6 people or 50 people, all those people are under the impression you are still actively looking unless they hear otherwise. Even if you never heard a word from them, it’s a good practice to communicate your success with them.

The people who really need to hear your good news the most are, I would argue, those who agreed to stand up and be a reference for you. If they were contacted by the company, it could well be that part of the decision to offer you a job was based in part on the conversation the interviewer had with these people. Those folks may have had to keep you foremost in their minds as they went about their daily work just on the off-chance that someone called and asked about you. Seems like the very least you should do is thank them personally.

Depending how long you have been out of work, you might find that your wardrobe is dated. You’re going to want to make a good impression on day one, and taking a trip to the store to pick up something you are going to feel confident in on day one could be just the thing. If you’ve been scrimping and saving, this is one thing you can do for yourself that will lift your spirits. If you paid attention to how the people dressed in the company when you had your visit, you’ll have an idea of what to wear. Not sure? Why not call and ask about the expected dress code? And consider a haircut too.

Some organizations are really well-organized and you’ll have people looking for you right from day 1. You may be met in reception, given a tour, have a meeting with your new boss right off the bat and then get introduced to others and given some time to set up in your work area. In some cases, there could be poor communication and planning, and when you arrive, no one seems ready to receive you and make you feel welcomed. Pay attention to how you feel and how you are brought into the organization one way or the other. This could be a great opportunity to improve the experience of new hires.

Planning is important for you as much as it is by the company. You should have planned out how you will get to your workplace, asked where to park your vehicle and if the parking is free or not. The last thing you want to do is have to drive around for 15 minutes once you arrive and then appear to be late walking in the door. And it might not be advisable to park in the area reserved for your boss. If you are reluctant to contact your new boss for this information, call the general number and ask the Receptionist. Getting his or her name will also give you someone to say hello to when you arrive on your first morning.

Think ahead about your lunch too. Eat in or eat out on day 1? Good advice is to bring your lunch and plan to eat in the lunch area presumably provided, but if you get a chance to go out with some people, leave the lunch there for the next day and go. Making friends or just being welcomed by a few people and included in their lunch time is a great way to start off. If no offers are made to you regarding lunch plans, you can eat your lunch and maybe use your time to keep your eyes and ears open. Be friendly!

Oddly enough, there is something to look out for on your first day. While no one may know you, you might actually find that it appears someone or a group of people aren’t too happy with your arrival. Why would that be? Could be something like the person they thought would get the job is a friend, relative, neighbour etc., of someone who works there now. Your co-workers might resent not you specifically, but you in general because you got the job they hoped would go to someone else. This isn’t fair to you of course, but it could be you’ll need time to win them over and give you a break. No need to be everyone’s best friend on day 1.

Also on your first day, don’t bring a lot of knickknacks to work. Little figurines, toy cars, desktop golf games etc. might be cute in the store, but find out what is acceptable and what is not before you show up with lots of things you accumulated at your last job. You might find that poster you wanted to hang in your locker or adorn your wall with is not a offends your colleagues.

It feels good to get a job doesn’t it? Part of your identity is coming back, and so is your confidence. Awesome!