By Iddah Kariuki
A person’s ability to quickly adapt to a new work environment greatly determines how well they are going to thrive in that environment, and subsequently, their productivity. As humans, we are naturally apprehensive of changes that seem to disrupt the continuity of life as we know it, and especially so if these changes require us to make major social, emotional and psychological shifts. Evidenced by an infant’s first cry when they are ‘slapped’ into a cold and not so gentle world, so is the discomfort we are likely to encounter when we land into a new work place that offers little to no comparison to what we are accustomed to. Yes, the shift may happen to be a much better deal in comparison to our last job, but there’s almost always some looming questions at the back of one’s mind like, how well will I fit in with this new group of people? How will the work culture suit me? What about my new boss?
Factors that make people move from job to job are majorly about the search for better work environments and the need to scale up financially, but there is no limit as to the number of reasons that prompt people to actually get up and leave. We cross our fingers and silently hope that these preferred conditions will be met on the other side of the fence; the saying goes that grass is always greener on the other side. However instead of just sitting and hoping and wishing that the conditions on your next job will be ‘just right’ for you to thrive, what about prepping oneself mentally and equipping oneself with the relevant skills for adapting?
Hopefully, there are certain deliberate choices one can make and skills one can polish up to ensure that when it is most needed, they will not only adjust, but also thrive and eventually shine in their new posting. In the online business dictionary, adaptability is defined as “The tendency of an entity or organism to alter itself or its responses to the changed circumstances or environment”. The definition continues to expound that adaptability portrays that one has gained the ability to learn from their different experiences in life, therefore improving their fitness as a competitor.
Without prior or adequate knowledge concerning a new work place, one runs the risks of succumbing to the fear of the unknown according to author Dale Carnegie. Fear of the unknown is one of the single most leading factors to failure in new job postings, he notes. In light of this, what kind of knowledge then do we need to acquire, and what are some of the behavioral and attitude adjustments needed to prepare ourselves for this highly anticipated new role and environment?
Expect that you will need to change
Firstly, there will be a need to appreciate that certainly, changes will have to be incurred once you land on your new job. Failure to adjust one’s expectation realistically and the lack of openness to new experiences is a prime factor to experiencing what is termed as ‘culture shock’, says Jason S. Wrench in his book “Workplace Communication for the 21stCentury”. Learn everything you can about your new organization, your role on the job and the details of the job description. Remember, what you do not know will kill you as the old adage goes. Ask lots of questions, show eagerness to learn. It has been commonly noted that most employers will gravitate towards employees who seem to show curiosity and interest over their jobs, unlike those who glide through their tasks without causing any ripples.
Understand your new environment
In addition, get to study the company’s structure; who are the management, what are the various departments, what is the place of the company in the existing market and who constitutes its competitors? What are the internal structures, hierarchy and communication patterns? How do employees communicate with their managers and with each other? In the same vein, make an attempt to meet or get to know your own boss, manager or immediate supervisor. Understanding their communication style and adhering will be pertinent to increasing your scale on likeableness and your score on adaptability, notes dale Carnegie. Get to know how they like work to be done. In fact, be the first to request a meeting just to set the pace of the work early. Get to understand their expectations of you in your new role.
First impressions count
Of magnitude also are the attitudes exhibited especially in the few first days at the workplace. First impressions they say, speak volumes. Remember everyone is watching; not only your supervisor and boss, but also everyone else who knows that you are the newbie in town. Remember the same people watching and listening could potentially act as the sources of grapevine to the HR or to your boss, and you don’t want to mess your reputation especially while still under the spotlight. Therefore, it is recommended to be on guard at all times yet not rigid, but allowing oneself to seem as comfortable as possible in the new environment.
Be smart about how you handle feedback
Remember also that your new coworkers, your immediate boss, and all connected to your role in one way or the other are watching keenly not only how eager you are to learn, but also how you respond to and incorporate their feedback. However confident one may feel in the subject matter under discussion, Jason’s advice to the new employee is to first listen with interest to his group’s feedback. “Your workmates need to see that you acknowledge and value their experience gained on this job and could actually end up being your greatest supporters and enthusiasts in helping you adapt well and cope in this new job. So, even if you seem to know more or have more experience in the same field, adopt the role of a learner”, he advices.
The need to tow the line as early as possible cannot be emphasised enough! What does this mean? Be a stickler to rules. Show up early. Adhere to the company’s work ethic. Dress for your position. Don’t try to impose or change the work culture. Simply put, assume the new rhythm instead of constantly comparing the present job with the past. Be a team player. Keep time when attending meetings. Please, as much as it in your power, stay away from controversial topics like politics or religion; it is still too soon to be too opinionated. Avoid work gossips, grapevine or criticism.
Finally, smile, smile and smile some more! The friendlier you are to people you do not know, the more likeable you will seem to be, and who doesn’t want to be friends with someone who is contagiously happy? People tend to be attracted like metal to magnets to individuals who exuberate a sense of confidence and contentment with life. Thus, be that person. Reach out to your new coworkers and be the first to introduce yourself and make as much eye contact as possible. Success in the workplace is all a matter of attitude, notes Dale Carnegie.
Carnegie, D. (2017). How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. (2018 Ed). Canada: Mclelland & Stewart.