New gig, who dis? How to befriend your new colleagues.


Starting a new job during covid is hard. Everything is on Zoom. There's no water cooler chat. You can't go get a drink after work. Everyone is already burnt out from this year. If you're coming off of a layoff or furlough your sense of self and identity has already taken a kick in the pants which probably has you on high alert.

As HBR points out, it can be disconcerting to notice when you start a new job that your colleagues are not welcoming. They may undermine you, jeopardize your brand and distract you from performing at your best.

This is a real widespread problem. Half of all senior-level outside hires fail within the first 18 months. Up to 20% of new hires leave within the first 45 days of joining. The reason this happens depends on several inputs but often is rooted in factors out of your control.

Here's some practical advice to set yourself up for success.

It's not you, but what you represent:

If colleagues are talking shit behind your back, being difficult to work with, passive aggressive or unresponsive to agreed-upon actions, try to understand the factors surrounding your arrival. How was your hire communicated to your colleagues? How were you communicated to your colleagues? Did you beat someone out internally for the role? Were your teammates told to willfully do whatever you tell them before building a relationship?

While this may be done with the best intentions, it may backfire because people will form their own opinions before you arrive. If this happens, it's never too late to clarify who you are and what you stand for. Don't do this in a larger setting, it'll come off as authoritarian. Find time with each of your team members and build relationships.

Create a board of feedback advisors:

Ask some of the more difficult people around you for feedback constantly and don't take it personally. The more comfortable you, and they, get with giving and receiving feedback, the better you will all perform in the long run by taking the emotion out of it and focusing on making everyone better.

Doing this will help you align on workflow expectations and figure out which key stakeholders you need to influence to succeed. Find time with your boss early and often to understand how everyone likes to work and how to assimilate. Also find a few peers early to be your sounding board for ongoing advice. Split your time in the beginning figuring out how the work gets done in addition to actually doing it.

Make enemies your allies:

If you make an enemy quickly, their behavior probably has more to do with their insecurities vs you. Even if someone is talking shit and sabotaging what you're doing, use Roger Rabbit as your example and metaphorically kiss your enemy. Ask them for advice. Praise them in a public setting. Let their manager know you think they're doing a good job (assuming they are). Remember taking the high road will always bode better for you.

Best of luck with the new gig, go get em cheese.

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