HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FIRST 90 DAYS AT A NEW COMPANY
by Paul Kaponya, © 1990
Pleasing the Boss
Here are some tips on what bosses like to see in new employees:
- Keep busy on company work. If you complete your assignments, ask for additional work or suggest another assignment yourself. Don’t’ spend company time on unnecessary personal phone calls or other private business.
- Show initiative. Volunteer for learning opportunities, extra duty, the unwanted task. Make suggestions that will save time and money. Do something extra!
- Make it a point to get assignments done on or ahead of time. A reputation for being responsive is like money in the bank!
- Start early and stay late. (if permissible) Such action will preclude being late and will quickly be noted as a very positive sign.
- Learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable. Simply own up to them and be ready to point out how you will prevent them from recurring. Always be receptive to suggestions on how to improve your performance.
- Bring alternatives to the boss. Don’t bring problems. Analyze the problem and think through alternate solutions, then present to the boss what you think are the best solutions.
- Ask questions and take notes. Your supervisor will automatically assume that you understand if you don’t ask questions. So ask away when you need to and don’t be afraid of appearing stupid. However, you may appear stupid if you ask the same question twice. Well organized notes will minimize that possibility.
- Check your understanding of assignments by restating them in your own terms. Check your assumptions.
- Check back (only occasionally) to let the boss know how you are progressing, especially during your first week on the new job.
- Learn and then comply with the formal rules and informal norms. Follow the norms of dress. Wait till you have clearly established yourself before coming to work, for example, without a necktie—unless that is clearly the acceptable dress norm. Blend in and don’t create unnecessary problems.
- Be discreet. Confidential company information such as salaries, employee relation problems, etc., should be kept confidential. Divulging such choice morsels may make you popular on the grapevine, but it can be the “kiss of death” if discovered by your supervisor.
- Learn as much as you can about the company—its history, organization, products, and policies. Ask your boss what information he feels is important and how it relates to your job and your department.
Creating Good Relationships With Others
Establishing and maintaining a positive work climate with other employees is important. Some guidelines to consider in the day-to-day contact with other employees are:
- Be positive, pleasant and upbeat. Smile a lot and don’t put anyone down. Let the clever cheap shots go by. Stay out of internal office politics, it at all possible.
- Express complaints as constructive suggestions or questions. Complainers, particularly new employees, are seldom appreciated and not long tolerated.
- Don’t use off-color language, or tell ethnic or sexist jokes. What is humorous to some is offensive to others.
- Avoid continually referring to a former employer, if you had one. Fellow employees don’t like to hear continually about “the way we did it at the XYZ Company”. Even though well-intended, such comments wear thin quickly.
- Participate in office and company activities. Attending the company picnic and office luncheons gains visibility and shows interest that will eventually pay off.
- Don’t show enthusiastic agreement with any criticism. If people bend your ear, criticizing peers, bosses, or the establishment, play the psychologists role—put on your most intent, sympathetic listener’s mask and offer no more encouragement than a cold objective “Hmm” until you’ve had ample opportunity to size up the critics and the objects of their criticism.
- Don’t offer observations, opinions or criticism about the generation that preceded yours, no matter how well deserved. In the first month, don’t even do this with “under thirties”. Many people in your generation don’t have hang-ups about age. They aren’t uptight about elders, so reaction here could detrimentally affect your relationships and your image.
- Use the Socratic Method. When you are involved in strategy-type discussions, trying to sell ideas, plans, programs and yes, yourself, don’t tell—ask. Ask questions with which the other person would have to agree. Get them to say “yes, yes, yes” and you will not only make/help friends but will gain the support you need.
- Welcome “coaching” from those who already have stubbed their toes a few times on the achievement road.
The Importance of Finding Mentors
You can initiate pleasant and helpful relationships with fellow workers during your first 90 days that can enhance the progress of your career. There are a lot of great people in the working world. The trick is to find them. Get to know the politics of your organization, the organizational structure, and how people fit in. To get to know the people that can prove helpful to you:
- Be all ears, note whose name(s) are mentioned most frequently in positive terms. Who are regarded as high achievers? To whom do others seem to go to most often for advice? When you have organizational and/or functional questions, to whom do they refer you (other than your boss, of course). To what people does your boss refer you to for reliable information? Make note of those names. Seek those people out to establish rapport.
- Broaden your network, touch bases with others outside your group. As a beginner, you are in a good position to do this. Ask your boss and the top personnel executive to help you. This is the fastest way to develop a broad perspective of the company and to find potential mentors. And, if you inquire, you can get from them invaluable views on (a) how others view your group and (b) how your group can be more effective.
- Don’t be satisfied with the monitoring your boss provides. He may be super, his efforts will be slower. He has to sandwich in guidance activities between many other priorities.