When you’re the new kid on the block at work, acclimating to the culture can take time and careful observation. But building positive relationships and fitting in is critical to your success.
A poor cultural fit is the number one reason new hires don’t work out. This glaring fact from forbes.com reminds us why it’s so important—when you’re that new hire—to work to understand how people in your organization interact to get work done. Watch, ask questions and learn the existing norms. All this attentive observation can be exhausting, but well it’s worth your time.
Corporate culture can include a lot of things. Individual attitudes, the pace of work, the way employees communicate, how decisions are made, who has power (both formal and informal) and a million other little things.
Avoiding a collision with the normal “way we do things around here” begins by understanding what’s going on with the people around you and not judging or rocking the boat until you have a complete picture. Take a look at these six areas of company culture:
- Relationships—The interactions between employees are often complicated. The organizational chart shows formal authority, but it doesn’t show the subtle ways people interact to get work done or make decisions. Take note of how much time colleagues spend meeting with each other, suggests hbr.org. Or do they tend to be at their desks or work from home? Notice who colleagues rely on for advice and help. And take note of which interactions rile your boss.
- Communications—How do employees communicate? Is it primarily email or text? Or is it more common to discuss things face-to-face? When communicating with higher-ups, what’s the norm? Who’s getting copied in emails? Who should you be keeping in the loop?
- Meetings—Are meetings typically formal or more spontaneous? Do they revolve around presentations and agendas? How do people interact with colleagues in positions of authority during the meeting? And how do the participants and leaders react to these interactions? Take your cue from what you see and hear.
- Decision making—Are decisions finalized in meetings or informally after the fact? Does implementation of a decision reflect what was agreed to, or are there hidden decision-making rules at play? Also consider how decision making happens—is it a slow, methodical process based on much data; or is quick? If you’re used to fast decisions, you may need to learn to be patient if your new organization’s decision making is more analytical and consensus-driven.
- “I” vs. “we” perspective—When work is accomplished, how is it recognized and rewarded? Are teams recognized as a whole? Or are individuals getting more of the spotlight?
- Rhythm of the work—What is the pace? Do employees leave right on time each evening? Do they get right to work the moment they arrive in the morning? It’s a good idea to understand the norm and what’s expected, suggests John Kelly for howstuffworks.com. Are there busy times of the year? How does that affect your colleagues’ hours and pace?
There are unspoken rules and intricate relationships in every organization. When you start a new job, observing or asking questions of your boss or a trusted colleague can help you pick up clues and keep you from a misstep. Attentive, watchful, non-judgmental behavior is key when you start a new job. Listen well. Keep your eyes open and show your new co-workers that you value their experience and are interested in fitting in.