Being the new guy (or gal)

Apr 16, 2015

1477789_10152791298915678_4946862984534976341_nFour items of political savviness can help ensure organizational newcomers are accepted and successful.

A/E/P and environmental firms are in hiring-mode nationwide. This industry is booming, and we’re bringing on new people – some of them for mid- to upper-level jobs – at a faster rate than I have seen in years. You may be one of these people, yourself – someone who has recently moved to a different company. When you first join a new organization, it’s critical that you be accepted. You don’t want to be the transplanted organ that’s rejected by the host. It’s not always easy, but it’s crucial to your short-term survival and long-term success. The whole process is fraught with peril, especially if you are hired as a manager. On the one hand, the reason you were brought in could be that top management wants you to be a change agent. In those cases, you don’t want to let whatever is currently a dysfunctional culture ruin you, so that you become part of the problem instead of part of the solution. On the other hand, it’s still critical to be accepted by the troops, or they’ll “accidentally” shoot you in the back before you can fix the problems you were hired to solve. Here are some thoughts for those who have just joined a new organization to help you survive the change and make you more effective sooner:
  • Make an effort to get acquainted with everyone there. Ask people to lunch. Make conversation. Get them talking about themselves, because everyone likes that. Also – get out to see them, as opposed to waiting for them to come to you. You’ll quickly make friends this way, and friends help you succeed.
  • Make a special effort to get to know the old-timers and figure out how you can help them achieve their goals. Seek out whomever has been there the longest and get them on your side, because they are bound to be the most skeptical of any change. They’ve already seen many failures and may be able to help you. Ask these people how you could help them and what would improve their daily lives and then work on doing it. You need these people supporting you and working to help you succeed.
  • Stop. Look. Listen. Then act. Don’t be too quick to make changes before clearing them with your supervisor(s) and going through a “sales” process. Change may be necessary, and it may need to happen quickly. But too much change too fast without adequate study is the marque of a neophyte who hasn’t worked in many organizations. And, when you do decide what you are going to do, inform/communicate/sell it to all. Selling means you have to build a case as to why change is necessary (data helps) and then show why your proposal will make things better.
  • Be helpful. Helping people is always the best way to get support. What can you do to make someone’s job better, easier, or to make them look better to the people they work with and for? Do these things, and you’ll be the hero of the day.
These kinds of political skills may seem unnecessary to some readers, but, believe me, they are critical to your success and the success of the new people you’re bringing in. Mark Zweig is president and CEO of Zweig Group. Contact him at

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