Be Careful who Befriends You in Week One of a New Job

By Dino Londis

Be Careful who Befriends You in Week One of a New JobThe first week of the new job brings to you new people, new processes and new politics.  You feel isolated, maybe vulnerable. As you try to get your footing, it’s only natural to look around for friends. But be careful who befriends you. If you’re going to lunch or getting coffee with the department fool, you may be lumped into a category that’ll be hard to shake. People judge, and although you’ve made a good first impression with management you’ll need to do the same with your colleagues.

While researching for an article about first impressions in the workplace, I came upon the usual clichés. The most repeated one: "You never have a second chance to make a first impression." Its rationale goes something like this: It takes anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds for someone to form an opinion of you. In that time, they examine how you dress, act, your choice of words, your accent.

Well, all that’s only true when you’re meeting someone you’ve never seen before. Like, say, at a job interview. But once you’re hired, you’ll go anywhere from days to weeks before formally meeting everyone, and all the while they’re forming their opinions about you. So their first impressions aren’t formed in 30 seconds, but over a much broader period that ends only after the formal introduction.

Even after that, they’re still evaluating you. Management, too. Remember this is your probationary period, whether it’s called that or not.

Becky’s Story

"When I started that new job, I think I was naive and desperate for acceptance so I welcomed any friendly overtures from anyone," reflects Becky, who was starting a at a midtown New York law firm’s help desk. "Then a few weeks down the road I found out the friendly welcoming committee were kind of the social outcasts and losers, preying on people in that state of newbie desperation. Eventually, I found different, better matched friends. I realized with embarrassment that everyone else saw what was happening, and that I kind of looked like the desperate fool that I was."

Becky had no history with her co-workers, but likewise didn’t know the firm’s history or politics, or where the minefields lay. Knowing this and knowing how to spot the "social outcasts and losers" are two different things. So here’s my rule of thumb (you may have a different barometer): In those first few weeks, winners talk tech and losers talk personal.

The personal talk ranges anywhere from home life to stinging company gossip. I find people talk personal because they don’t have tech skills and therefore aren’t well respected within the department. Of course, the technically proficient may get personal as well, but there’s a difference between telling you about a great restaurant and someone describing how they were stricken in the rest room because they ate in the cafeteria.

Home Base

The one person I’ve always found safe to immediately befriend is the receptionist on my floor. By their very position, they’re the people people, and their kind word about you travels well. I’ve gotten some great clues by speaking with her (for me, it’s always been a her) and saying kind things about specific people and listening to how she responds. I’ve received excellent, immediate insight into the company.

Not all of us can read people well.  We’re techies after all, but we get ahead in this business by managing people almost better than we manage machines. A new job is a new start with new people. If you don’t have skills to get a quick bead on a person, keep a healthy distance from everyone until you can put pieces of the puzzle together while doing your job. Making the wrong friends isn’t career ending, but at some point you’ll need to push your agenda or be picked for a project and you won’t want the stigma of association with a person you hardly knew.

Dino Londis is an applications management engineer in New York.

Comments

14 Responses to “Be Careful who Befriends You in Week One of a New Job”

July 08, 2010 at 12:18 am, Brad said:

I would also suggest avoiding the one who has worked hard to look like a klingon from the original Star Trek series and talks in Klingonese.

Also I would suggest avoiding the one who says dude every other word and advertises bringing the largest doobie in the world, to work and invites people out for a toke on the next smoke break.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 12:18 am, Brad said:

I would also suggest avoiding the one who has worked hard to look like a klingon from the original Star Trek series and talks in Klingonese.

Also I would suggest avoiding the one who says dude every other word and advertises bringing the largest doobie in the world, to work and invites people out for a toke on the next smoke break.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 1:37 am, Paul Torres said:

I believe it was Andrew Carnegie or some other US industrialist in the early 20th century who said, “Take my money, buildings, materials but leave my men and I will get everything else back”.

The HR investment businesses make is typically very significant.

To regard with disdain those who seek to understand personality dynamics as ‘brown nosers’ is such an low estimation of our human kind contribution to a successful enterprise.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 1:37 am, Paul Torres said:

I believe it was Andrew Carnegie or some other US industrialist in the early 20th century who said, “Take my money, buildings, materials but leave my men and I will get everything else back”.

The HR investment businesses make is typically very significant.

To regard with disdain those who seek to understand personality dynamics as ‘brown nosers’ is such an low estimation of our human kind contribution to a successful enterprise.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 4:36 am, Tom in Charlotte said:

I see the point the author is making about embarrassment after one figures out they are reaching for acceptance. Just simply acting professionaly seems to help with a new job. The term professional means in a cantor… job, policy, people… Because one is replaceable in job it should be your policy to treat people in a professional manor… one step removed…

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 4:36 am, Tom in Charlotte said:

I see the point the author is making about embarrassment after one figures out they are reaching for acceptance. Just simply acting professionaly seems to help with a new job. The term professional means in a cantor… job, policy, people… Because one is replaceable in job it should be your policy to treat people in a professional manor… one step removed…

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 5:29 am, K said:

I disagree completely. That advice sounds like it came from a playground or a middle school cafeteria.

“Not all of us can read people well. We’re techies after all . . . ” WHA? And “department fool” ?!?! Dino and Becky, you both have a knack for labeling people in a very unfriendly way. No wonder you think you have to treat coworkers like enemies until you decide you like them and they like you.

Don¿t engage in petty office politics (and generally bad behavior) by labeling people as ¿losers¿ and then avoiding them at all costs. Instead, just be polite, professional and mature at all times with everyone. That will make a great first and lasting impression.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 5:29 am, K said:

I disagree completely. That advice sounds like it came from a playground or a middle school cafeteria.

“Not all of us can read people well. We’re techies after all . . . ” WHA? And “department fool” ?!?! Dino and Becky, you both have a knack for labeling people in a very unfriendly way. No wonder you think you have to treat coworkers like enemies until you decide you like them and they like you.

Don¿t engage in petty office politics (and generally bad behavior) by labeling people as ¿losers¿ and then avoiding them at all costs. Instead, just be polite, professional and mature at all times with everyone. That will make a great first and lasting impression.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 11:12 am, KPD said:

“…but we get ahead in this business by managing people almost better than we manage machines.”

If ever there were an indictment of American business management practice, this is it.

Reply

July 08, 2010 at 11:12 am, KPD said:

“…but we get ahead in this business by managing people almost better than we manage machines.”

If ever there were an indictment of American business management practice, this is it.

Reply

July 09, 2010 at 12:03 am, e said:

I disagree also. The office is not high school. Your reputation will be based on your ability to do your job effectively. You will drift to where you fit in. This is true professionally and socially. As a new person, be open to everyone, but do not make snap judgments about them or the people they tell you about. Listen to what they say, but decide for yourself. The “office fool” may not be the person you hang out with or agree with professionally, but having a good relationship with them is a good thing. If you be a jerk and shun people because of their reputation, then guess what that makes you?

Reply

July 09, 2010 at 12:03 am, e said:

I disagree also. The office is not high school. Your reputation will be based on your ability to do your job effectively. You will drift to where you fit in. This is true professionally and socially. As a new person, be open to everyone, but do not make snap judgments about them or the people they tell you about. Listen to what they say, but decide for yourself. The “office fool” may not be the person you hang out with or agree with professionally, but having a good relationship with them is a good thing. If you be a jerk and shun people because of their reputation, then guess what that makes you?

Reply

July 11, 2010 at 10:04 am, Ana Gonzalez said:

Excellent article. I have learned through hard knots day by day and year by year everything that this article talk about friendship at work. My best recommendation to everyone is to concentrate in the own work and avoid to talk about personal issues at work. Do not talk about your family neither about your children at work place. The better thing to do is what the article talk, be a tech talker instead of a personal talker. Never be a loser, always be a winner.

Reply

July 11, 2010 at 10:04 am, Ana Gonzalez said:

Excellent article. I have learned through hard knots day by day and year by year everything that this article talk about friendship at work. My best recommendation to everyone is to concentrate in the own work and avoid to talk about personal issues at work. Do not talk about your family neither about your children at work place. The better thing to do is what the article talk, be a tech talker instead of a personal talker. Never be a loser, always be a winner.

Reply

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.