shake it off
May 16, 2016 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Worked at one company for 10+ years, now starting at a new company. How to adjust to a new corporate culture when I'm sure some calcification (entitlement?) has set in?

So I basically "grew up" at this one company, from junior to senior staff across 10+ years and a couple of departments. Became very respected and knowledgable, with a lot of social collateral. I just got a new job with (assuming it is as they advertised) a much more proactive, self-responsible, non-siloed culture. (They are 8-10 years out of their start up phase.) Great! Any tips / tricks for shaking off the old corporate culture? How to read the new corporate culture? I'm worried I might fall into "well at my old company...." as if it was the gold standard or something. Any other gotchyas that an old timer like me might feel when suddenly I'm the newbie? How to cope with feeling out of my element? Thanks metafilter.
posted by St. Peepsburg to Work & Money (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Be careful who rushes to make friends with you at the new place: sometimes it's a wonderful, friendly person, but sometimes it's a person who's been forced to the edge of the company social sphere and who now sees a chance to make an ally before you figure out what's what.

(This is harsh, yes, but You Don't Know What You Don't Know -- about the people, the history there, culture, existing social ties, etc. So protect yourself in the early days.)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2016 [25 favorites]

Best answer: Hey, I just got a new job after being at my company for eleven years. I've been here three weeks now and am just starting to feel like I have my feet under me the barest bit - so don't freak out when you feel lost. Even though I knew this was a positive step for me and I feel good about this company and my position, I've still had a few moments of thinking, "what the hell did I just do." Change is hard!

The main thing I've learned is to say a little bit less than you would have at the old place until you figure out what everyone's interests, positions, and alliances are. Office politics exist everywhere, and after over a decade at my previous place I didn't realize how much I took for granted that I instinctively understood all the nuance at play. So be tentative and feel it out for a bit. Don't assume something you say or do is going to go over the same way it did with your old coworkers.

Also, admit you don't know what's going on. I identified a few people in the first week I could go to with random questions, which has been very helpful. I too was regarded as very knowledgeable in my last job and I know I will get there again, but not by putting on any sort of pretense right now, when I barely even understand what our products are. Just be yourself, try to learn as much as you can, and the respect will come.
posted by something something at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Don't rush to prove how smart and talented you are. Simply take it all in. Make no decisions about people until you've had a chance to see them actually do their thing.

Be pleasant and cheerful to everyone, be open to learning new tasks.

That's all I've got for now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:47 AM on May 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yes, what RB says. Go slow and be nice. I think of this situation as like getting a coloring book full of blank pages, where your co-workers will eventually volunteer to draw the outlines so that you can know where to color inside the lines. Do not just start scribbling all over every page!
posted by rhizome at 11:15 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, just consider it part of your new-job acclimation process, and assume that it's going to take a couple of months for you to get the hang of the new culture—just like it'll likely take a couple of months for you to get the hang of your new duties. Don't rush it, and don't assume you already know. Feel free to ask questions of your coworkers and supervisors, but be sure to frame them in a non-judgmental way and don't use your workmates as specific examples so as to avoid looking as though you are calling them out.

Remember the mantra "I know how we did this at my old place, how do you do it here?" It's a good template for asking all sorts of new-job questions without making yourself look totally ignorant.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't start any sentence with "At my old company...". No-one likes people who constantly compare their previous role.

Don't automatically assume that because something is done a certain way that people are idiots or someone made a stupid decision. Things like that often have a very specific reason and history which someone new (who can measure their employment time in hours) will be unlikely to know. Be open to doing things differently.
posted by mr_silver at 12:10 PM on May 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't get too freaked out by signs of a toxic culture. That may actually be the case, or it could just be one pocket of bad stuff that you can work around, or it could actually be a healthy relationship that involves a lot of conflict. Withhold judgement for as long as possible.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:33 PM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The fact that you're asking this question is in itself a great sign.

Expect to spend a couple hours a week of extra time socializing with coworkers for the first few months- lunches, coffees, evening functions- go to them all. Building social capital is important and even though a new job is tiring, neglecting this step will probably backfire later.

Once in a while, ask for feedback (from supervisors, or from people you are starting to trust not to abuse this openness). "Is this a good fit with your workflow?" or "Let me know if there's anything I can do differently- I'm really open to feedback!".
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Write down everything you notice that is a) different than your old company and b) you're tempted to improve. Go back to that list in a month. You'll probably find that you now understand why they choose to do most of the things on the list. What's remaining could be genuine areas of potential improvement.

The main effect of writing them down is that you're not tempted to be the 'at my last position' broken record. A side effect is that it keeps you attentive.
posted by oryelle at 7:03 PM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

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