Joining a new team

We've put together some really useful advice on what to expect when joining a new team and how you can prepare yourself for this:

It’s easy to assume a smooth transition will happen on its own, but you can influence how this happens for you. This can be done before you’ve officially started, you can lay the groundwork for a smooth start before your first day. It is absolutely fine to contact your key person at your new place of employment: this might be your Line Manger or a contact within the HR Team. If you’re not sure who to ask, check with the person who offered you the job. Find out about your work schedule, the hours per week you are expected to work, salary, benefits, and any information you need to successfully join your employer and your team. See if s/he has any recommendations for how to prepare.

Ask for any reading material’s which may be helpful before your first day; parking; what the dress code is; if there is access to food and drinks throughout the first day. Most importantly, confirm exactly where and when you should report on your first day.

At some places of work, new employees start with an induction, while at others, you go directly to the Team you will be working with. You don’t have to guess you can ask for answers. Intend to arrive a little early. It’s one element that can contribute to your excitement and avoid becoming stressed. Do a trial run before you start the job. Figure out your transportation and where you’re going. Make the trip a few days ahead of time to see how long it takes, giving yourself enough time for traffic or other delays. Then give yourself a little extra time so you can arrive at work a few minutes early on your first day. Identifying and establishing the routines early on will give you peace of mind.

This can be your chance to develop and maintain positive wellbeing. Setting these expectations early on, planning for them and then being able to maintain them daily helps to form habits more easily. Some of these can be started well in advance of your first day, for example, feeling rested before your first day would involve getting into a healthy habit if sleeping well days in advance so you have an established pattern before you start. Do you plan to break for lunch, lose weight, go to the gym or for a walk, develop specific skills for example organisation skills or communication skills? Plan to do that with this job. It will help you to get into a more productive routine. Remember your wellbeing will impact on your performance.

Creating ambitious goals and working towards these through planning and applying small steps, then repeating the process, can help us achieve significant personal and professional growth This in turn helps us meet our psychological and emotional needs enabling us to feel more satisfied and successful.

This also relates to the setting of our boundaries (our expectations of ourselves and others) to maintain our wellbeing and therefore impact on our performance. Your expectations might not be the norm in your new workplace, but you can influence others around you through open communication early on. You may even influence others to do the same.

Whilst your focus once you’ve started your new job may be on your performance, and reviewing how things are progressing, it is also worth setting a personal review for your wellbeing goals; notice your achievements and the impact this is having on your performance and if necessary adjust your goals and your techniques to continue toward your ambitions.

You may be given an induction immediately including formal paperwork, resources available and required for your job, and a tour of the environment and the organisation (physical and structural) or you may have to arrange this for yourself. Keeping a checklist for yourself can help you remember and manage this. You may not need to know this immediately, but within a few weeks people will begin to assume you know where everything is.

Learn how to navigate and enjoy your new workplace. Locate the toilets, the coffee and water, the stairs and elevators, where you can eat lunch and take breaks, and seek out any other amenities this workplace offers. If you haven’t been given a tour, ask a colleague for one. It can be an early opportunity to get to know them better.

Assuming you know nothing allows the opportunity to ask the questions which could help you fully understand your new work environment. Being humble is worth a lot when you’re starting a new job. There is no such thing as a stupid question when you’re starting a job. Your team members would prefer that you ask. You won’t be expected to know everything, and it’s better to ask for help than to guess.

Positive relationships in the workplace are an integral part of career success. Successful relationships in the workplace, have a huge impact on our productivity and job satisfaction. Given that we are social beings feeling connected and having a sense of belonging is as important in our working environments as it is in our personal lives. By taking certain steps toward understanding your emotional needs and getting to know your co-workers, you can build lasting, professional relationships. The benefits of effective working relationships increase our sense of satisfaction; increase our confidence with new and unfamiliar tasks; improves productivity for the whole team; can provide a platform for support; increases retention rates; and reduces sickness rates to name a few.

Establishing positive relationships and networks can feel easier for some of us than others. We all have different strengths in the way we interact with others. The most effective teams will have characteristics of trust; acceptance and understanding of one other and the role each member holds; commitment; engagement; value; and effective communication. In the work environment your team is a deliberate formation of people being bought together for a specific intention and purpose. This purpose can help guide and structure the nature of your relationship with others. In other words ‘what we here to do’. The ‘how we achieve this’ element is not exclusive to the tasks that are involved but equally important is how we interact to achieve this. Effective interpersonal communication will greatly influence this.

The expectations we hold of other people (and vice versa) are sometimes assumed to be explicit. We think because we have a role this clarifies the way in which we will work together and when things become difficult we can sometimes begin to try to read each other’s minds based on past experiences, but we can’t. The easiest way of knowing what someone expects of us is to ask them and vice versa. Setting the expectations within the relationship at the earliest opportunity can help the professional relationship run smoothly. Getting to know how the team dynamic or culture operates will require some patience, observation and genuine curiosity.

Effective communication skills are a work in progress for all of us. Skills are behavioural. There is always an opportunity to develop and improve our skills to interact with others. Evaluating your skills can be the basis of this. Be yourself and notice the strengths you already have. This can help build your confidence to interact with others and will also help others build trust with you which can then create a platform to further develop any areas you might want to expand on. It’s also helpful to note the cultural influences in communication. Cultures affect communication through our frames of reference. We are all multicultural, so simple stereotypes are not helpful. Being open and friendly doesn’t mean you have to befriend everyone in the Team. Though it is true that many people find their key social network through their place of employment, it is not an expectation and cannot be forced. You have the right to choose who you want to include in your personal social network and this will rely on you getting to know the people first, respecting your own and other’s boundaries and then communicating clear expectations around your professional and personal relationships. With all your team members however, showing a friendly, interested and professional approach is more likely to gain the same in return.

Having the opportunity to use and develop your interpersonal skills and establish relationships will be fundamental. Remember building positive relationships in the workplace does take time. The day to day expectations and duties of your role might make it difficult to find time to interact with and get to know your other team members. Scheduling time to develop relationships, may make this easier. If this isn’t possible immediately, you could ask for help from those you have already been introduced to such as your manager. Find out how people best like to be communicated with e.g. drop by the office, send an email, instant-message, call, etc. and check in with your colleagues frequently. Consider opportunities such as breaks or the beginning or end of your working day to catch up with people. Additionally, social or team events can be great for building workplace relationships.

It might be helpful to set yourself some goals focused on relationships and network building. For example; knowing the structure and identifying key people you would like to meet or need to meet; getting to know at least two people in your team a day; identifying a mentor and arranging a meeting.

Introducing yourself to others might feel daunting at first but can be made easier by preparing for this so you’re more likely to feel excited about meeting your team. Practising alone or with a friend or family member could contribute to your confidence when meeting people in your team.

Don’t be afraid to tell people how you feel. Connection is not just about meeting new people; it can also be about sharing how you feel with friends and family. If new experiences are not easy to work out, then find someone to talk to who you know will listen, support and help you.

Create opportunities to have a purposeful and informative discussion that will lay the foundation for future collaboration by discussing your new team members roles, goals, challenges, and ways you can help each other. In each interaction, listen to understand what they do and who they are. Asking questions and actively listening will allow you to learn more about your team members and are also an important part of the process of building relationships.

Agreeing and negotiating the expectations through effective communication will help to develop a shared understanding and to develop the rapport between you. If the expectations communicated and agreed are realistic, consistent, clear, and reliable this is more likely to lead to trust between you. Your Team members may have specific insights based on previous experience and knowledge as do you. These insights combined can be used to negotiate what you might need from each other and how to realistically meet these needs. It’s worth getting these aligned through communication and could contribute to developing an informal agreement between you.

Asking for help can also initiate a workplace relationship and create more opportunities to get to know them. Also, keep in mind that you are more likely to receive the assistance you need when you have offered assistance too. Relationships involve both give and take and you can demonstrate this by asking for and offering assistance. Appreciation is a powerful relationship builder.

Feedback is especially useful when you’re starting a job. Ask members of the team as well as your manager, how you’re doing. Ask if he or she can give you any advice and ask for suggestions on what you can improve upon.

There may be differences in your insights, interpretations and perceptions to those of your team members which can be helpful and encouraged in order to broaden the breadth of your experience as a team. Sometimes these may conflict strongly with your own ideas and intentions. The causes may be varied. They may relate to differences in your thoughts, the task you are attending to or perceptions and practicalities of the way in which you are working with one another. Should this occur it’s a good idea to begin to address the differences quickly.

Differences and conflicts are a natural part of being human. The most effective way of handling any differences is to pre-empt and plan for them. When we are in conflict with others we tend make assumptions about the interests of the other party and they must be in direct opposition to ours. The reality is we can never truly know unless we address the issue. How we go about doing this can vary according to the person we conflict with, the issues that need attention and the approach used.

The Thomas and Kilmann’s Five Style approach can be beneficial to consider our own communication patterns, preferences, and manner. Conflict styles are the predominant ways that people deal with conflict. Most people rely on one or two styles. People develop styles based on experience and have reasons for the styles they use. The styles can however undergo change as they are not static and fixed. No one style is automatically better than another, but each has it’s benefits and limitations in different situations. It is helpful to use the styles to identify and elaborate on your own conflict styles. You can explore your own preferred styles using this resource: https://www.usip.org/public-education/students/conflict-styles-assessment.

Conflict Styles Approach emphasises two key dimensions in conflict: Concern for the self (assertiveness); and Concern for the other (cooperativeness). The five Thomas-Kilmann styles are: Avoidance, Accommodation, Competition, Compromising, and Collaboration.

When faced with conflict, people are inclined to respond in different ways. The goal is to be able to use any conflict style according to the conflict situation. Using styles that are helpful to this can influence the outcomes, the experience and the relationship.

When differences do emerge between you and your team member; and the intention is to resolve what the difficulty is and maintain effective working relationships, The Collaborative Style is likely to be the most effective. reliable way of handling the situation. This does rely on effective mutual communication skills: Communicating for clarity and understanding to be able to work with the different points of view. Define the issues first. You may not agree on the issues in conflict so it’s helpful to write them down so you can articulate why you are raising the issue and your needs. It is incredibly useful to include explanations to make your situation, perceptions, expectations clear. Create the opportunity to invite the other persons view point.

Listening is as essential as articulating in effective communication and conflict resolution. Try to understand their perceptions and be prepared to ask questions in order to understand and encourage a response. Make sure you can distinguish between the issues to be solved and the people involved. Explore all the desired outcomes and why they would be preferable to ensure the underlying concern about the problem is addressed. This can then help you generate options to create as many solutions as possible before you evaluate them to decide which options are best. You can then begin to choose a mutually satisfactory solution/s and develop a negotiated agreement from the best solutions. Often the outcome is likely to be a creative solution that might not have been imagined if worked out alone. The agreements would still benefit from a review so it’s worth considering when and how these will be reviewed to ensure they continue to work or need revisions going forward. Remember dialogue is a process and it can sometimes take time and some adjustments before you’re able to find a way that works for both/ all of you.

Having these conversations can be difficult but productive and benefit not only the work but the working relationship. If through the course of the conflict it becomes apparent that it is too difficult to do alone, explore the opportunities for support: are there many resources available to facilitate a conversation between you and your Supervisor such as a Mediation Service or another person who is able to remain fair and objective that can help you find a way forward? Whichever resource, or approach you use the intention is to address things as fully and as quickly as possible to avoid any escalation and free you up to be able to achieve your goals and enjoy your work and your relationships. Working with differences is a central part of creative development as an individual and as a team of people. Working together to resolve them is always possible, productive and can also be immensely satisfying. Enjoy finding out everything you can about your new culture.