How to get along with my new co-workers
September 20, 2007 7:03 AM   Subscribe

How do I make sure I get off on the right foot with my new co-workers?

I'm starting a new job in a couple of weeks, and want to do everything I can to make sure I get along well with my new co-workers. There are a few obstacles I'm concerned about:

1) One of the managers is a long-time collegue and mentor of mine (I'm one of his 'best students'). He's the one that brought me in for the job because he knows I have the enthusiasm and willingness to take initiative that he needs in that position. However, by doing just that I'm worried about being perceived as a "brown-noser". In short, I'm concerned about issues of favoritism.

2) I will be paid more than everyone in the entire department except one of the managers. This includes the person I will be reporting to. Although I sincerely hope that most people will not know this, I'm a little worried about bad feelings from my supervisor (whom, I believe, is aware of my salary).

3) I tried really hard to get this job, and worked on "selling myself" per various advice I found online as well as encouragement from my mentor. I did get the job, obviously, but the HR rep and the VP mentioned to my mentor that they felt I was "pretty arrogant" in their final meeting about me. I do have confidence in my skills and abilities, but the last thing I want is to be perceived as arrogant by management - especially when they granted me a larger-than-normal salary for my position.

Help me do the best I can to make friends and not enemies at my great new job!
posted by karmagirl to Work & Money (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The best thing you can do is fulfill your responsibilities, esp. when other people in your dept. are counting on you. If you have to hand off a project to someone else at a certain time, make sure you do so, or give your colleagues ample warning that this will not happen. There are always delays, but the best thing to do is to be transparent about it as soon as you see that you're going to miss your mark.

Communication is the key in any endeavor, best of luck.

PS Bring bagels.
posted by Mister_A at 7:07 AM on September 20, 2007

Listen. Ask questions. Don't portray the attitude that you know everything (you don't) or that everything they did before was wrong (it wasn't). Don't badmouth the person you've replaced. Don't gossip, especially with the first gossipy person who tries to befriend you.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:11 AM on September 20, 2007

Don't begin your first day suggesting new ideas and telling people what they're doing wrong or else you will come of as "pretty arrogant." Though you might be right, wait a while to pick you battles.
posted by jmd82 at 7:25 AM on September 20, 2007

Take it easy for a few weeks and try to get an understanding of the culture and power structure before you go off. Successful employees are defined by two characteristics: they're smart and get things done. For the first little while, just do what your boss asks of you and do it well.
posted by GuyZero at 7:34 AM on September 20, 2007

Do your job quietly and efficiently. Achieve a balance between surly and creepily over-friendly. Get to know how all the interactions in the office work before making waves.
posted by nowonmai at 7:36 AM on September 20, 2007

My answers will betray the manipulative, conniving creature that I am.

Be polite, with pleases, thank yous etc. I'm assuming you're female, but don't be afraid to open doors for people or stand when someone comes to the meeting table. My mother drilled etiquette into my head. If you treat your day to day like it's the first time meeting a significant other's family, not only will everyone feel respected, you'll also appear more mature. It may feel as if you're over doing it, but you really can't overdo politeness in a professional setting.

Learn people's names. I'm terrible at this and have to fall back on "sir" and "miss". When confronted I blame it on my parents being in the military.

Under-promise over-deliver. When asked how long something will take, make a best guess and then add 10-25% to your estimate. You'll almost always deliver ahead of time.

This is one that got me; I constantly got my work done too fast, making everyone else involved in whatever project rush and look bad. Pace yourself. I still feel ridiculous, but metafilter helps take up some of the time.

Randomly compliment people on various, nonsexual physical attributes. "I like your necklace", "You look nice today", "You have a great voice." Try for about once every few weeks. That way it will stand out for that person and you will leave the impression of being nice.

Offer to help whenever you have down time. Immediately jump up to help with spills and dropped papers.

Ask people about their weekend and listen. Try to remember a random bit and bring it up later.

Ask for people's help, even if you don't really need it. Not necessarily work-related, but soliciting, fashion, gift-giving or restaurant advice will let them feel like their opinion is valued and you might actually get some good gems.

I don't know if this will work for you, but when I worked in a small office I bought two dozen roses and gave one to every woman in the building (clearing it with the big boss first) anonymously. Obviously, they found out who did it and I basically became fireproof.

Make friends with the receptionists and secretaries.

If you go out, bring back coffee.

Bring in doughnuts and bagels randomly.

Admit when you are wrong. Ask for feedback on your work.

posted by JeremiahBritt at 7:52 AM on September 20, 2007 [11 favorites]

Your mentor brought you into this company, has a history of highlighting you aboive your peers (you were his star student), is paying you more than everyone else, and is telling you what your superiors told him in confidence. I would not blame your coworkers for feeling a bit threatened.

I don't say this to be snarky, but this is likely how others will perceive the situation, and you need to do all that you can to diffuse their fears. You have to prove to them you are not a spoiled golden child and that you really do respect them. Do a phenomenal job, but don't show off or brag about it. Find opportunities to let others teach you things, and thank them for showing you the ropes. Avoid any special treatment that your mentor might try to give you.
posted by jpdoane at 8:00 AM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Make an effort to have lunch with all of your colleagues individually withing the first couple of weeks. Also, bring in some dougnuts, bagels, coffee, etc. once a week. Further, if your work mates seem to be the type to go out for a drink after work, go with them.

Basically, make a point of socializing with them in non-work environments. It's a lot harder to hold a grudge against the new guy when you've started to think of him as a friend (and he's the cool guy that brings Krispy Kreme every Thursday).
posted by oddman at 8:02 AM on September 20, 2007

Relax, breathe, and smile. I think that your mentor has freaked you out by gossiping about things that were said about you in confidence. He shouldn't have done that. (It's good that you know that he can't keep secrets, by the way. Don't tell him things about other members of the staff that you don't want them to know. He's apparently not a very good manager if he can't keep his mouth shut about things that are said in confidence in hiring discussions.)

I would not bring in bagels/doughnuts/coffee for the office randomly until you've been there for a while and gotten a feel for the culture. If they already perceive you as a brown noser, a move like that will only make matters worse. If someone did that in my office, especially someone new whom people already resented a little, it wouldn't go over well at all. However, when you chair your first meeting at the company, have refreshments (coffee and doughnuts for a morning meeting, soda and candy or some other snack for an afternoon) at the meeting. Then it will feel natural rather than suck up-y.

Just be yourself, but a low key version of yourself. Don't talk up your accomplishments, ask questions that show other people that you're interested in theirs. Get to know the office culture before you jump in with both feet. If you're thinking about suggesting a change to a longstanding procedure, ask around to find out why things are done the way they are and whether people like the old way. Build consensus before making changes.

If you can pretend that you don't know what has been said about you, you'll be better off. Just be humble. As I'm sure you already know, you were brought on because you were the best fit for the job, not because you're better than all of the people currently working there. With time and patience, you'll fit in just fine.
posted by decathecting at 9:18 AM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about the impression the HR person and VP had of your arrogance. If they hadn't found you arrogant, they would've found something else to criticize. (They have to produce some sort of opinion, and it's commonly accepted to have both positive and negative things to say about a prospective hire.) Seconding decathecting's warning about your mentor gossiping. It was a pretty dumb slip of your supervisor to make.

Do not, do not, do not, bitch about how difficult it is to afford things in an attempt to be "normal." (I had a colleague making three times my salary who used to do this. It's really fucking annoying.) In fact, stay far, far away from having any discussions involving money or wealth whatsoever.

Seconding everything JeremiahBritt said.
posted by desuetude at 9:59 AM on September 20, 2007

Sweetie and JMD have it on the nose. Alas, I was guilty of these offenses when I came into the job I have now (I honestly thought I was being helpful and coming in with "new ideas") and it made it really hard for me. REALLY hard. I came off as arrogant without meaning too, and I'm still paying for it two years later. Take a few weeks or months to learn the ropes and see why they do things the way they do. Then, if there's room for improvement, make suggestions.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:16 AM on September 20, 2007

If you are bringing snacks - as a data point, I don't drink coffee or pop and I don't eat candy or chocolate or doughnuts or chips... and I find it awkward to turn these things down without it seeming rude.
posted by philfromhavelock at 3:44 PM on September 20, 2007

Thanks to everyone for some great feedback! I really think all of this will help me start off right with my new colleagues. Much appreciated!
posted by karmagirl at 4:01 PM on September 20, 2007

« Older Laptop audio recording issue   |   A check went boiiing Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.