Careers: Don’t be a jerk with the new guy

08/15/2014 1:00 AM

08/15/2014 3:20 PM

A relative of mine is settling into a new job and feeling typical “new guy” discomfort. As often happens, there’s one person who’s being downright unfriendly.

Given that we can’t exorcise others’ demons, we have to do our best to fit into the new surroundings. With luck, most co-workers are welcoming — or at least neutral.

Unfortunately, good “onboarding” of new employees is a lost art in some workplaces. New workers often are expected to soak up standard operating procedure by osmosis.

Jen Lawrence, author of “7 Ways to Engage a New Employee,” thinks managers and employees could use a primer on welcoming newcomers. It starts by simply telling the new hire that “I’m glad you’re here.” Given recent downsizings, any staff addition should be savored and assumed to be an asset until proven otherwise.

Lawrence, an employee engagement consultant, says everyone can point out the bathrooms, breaktime procedures, and phone system tips. But she puts the particular onus on managers to ease newbies’ comfort level. Start by connecting the new hire to a “cheerleader,” an existing worker who likes the place — not a malcontent.

Be sure to tell the new hires exactly why you’re happy to have them on board. Be specific about the skills they bring. Give them something substantive to do. Inject confidence by putting confidence in them.

An appointed mentor may help the transition. But it’s even better to explain to the whole work team why the new hire was made and how it helps everyone handle the workload. It’s natural, Lawrence says, for existing workers to be afraid they’ll lose status to the new person.

“It’s a good time for a team-building exercise … anything to get to know each other better as people,” she says. But planned event or not, it’s everyone’s job to smooth the transition that affects both new and existing workers.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and

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