Workplace Stress – Ten Ways to Fit Into a New Workplace

Starting a new job is one of the most stressful life events. Even though you may be excited to change your role and work for a new organization, it can feel very daunting to move to a new office, meet new colleagues and learn a new job. New job nerves are natural for everyone and your new employer will be keen to help you to settle in soon as possible – it’s part of their job after all. However, it is possible to speed this process up and to help yourself fit into your new workplace quickly.

Be Friendly

Your new employer and colleagues will be keen to get to make your acquaintance and get to know who you are as soon as you start. Begin by introducing yourself and learning all of their names. Take the opportunity to talk to them and always be available to be talked to. Your new colleagues, deliberately or not, will be making a first impression of you which will stick as they get to know you. Being approachable and friendly will ensure that you come across in a positive way.

Hypnotist and illusionist Derren Brown perhaps says it best: the best way to ‘make friends and influence people’ is in fact just to be a decent person.

Be Smart

Another way that your colleagues will make a first impression of you is from the clothes you wear and your appearance. Smart professional clothes, clean shoes and tidy hair will ensure that they see you as a professional colleague. Scruffy clothes, dirty shoes and messy hair, on the other hand, may see you being labelled as a concern. Before you start your job ensure that you dress appropriately for your new work environment. Often employers will email in advance to give you an idea of the dress code of your new office – or you can try looking at team photos that may be on the website. If in doubt, it is always advisable to wear a suit and a smart shirt. If this is too smart you can tone it down over the next few days so that you are wearing similar clothes to your colleagues. However, it is better to be too smart than not smart enough for your first day. And in terms of career progression, remember that the old adage is to ‘dress for the job you want’.

Learn the Rules

Joining a new organization may mean that you have new rules to follow. Take some time to read the new policies to ensure that you are behaving appropriately. It is a good idea to start with the dress code, the hours you are expected to work, and lunch breaks. If you are a smoker it is a good idea to check the policy on smoking breaks – make no assumption. It is important to ensure that you follow these rules; breaking them, deliberately or accidentally, will mean being frowned on by your colleagues/manager and could give you a bad reputation.

Find an Ally

But what about those ‘unwritten’ rules? What about knowing who to talk to and who not to? This is where it can come in very handy to have an ‘ally’ early on to show you the ropes. Hopefully your manager will provide someone to show you the ropes, so just don’t be afraid to ask questions as they come up.

Be Enthusiastic

During your first few weeks in your job it is important to come across as enthusiastic to your employer; they will be observing you as you settle in and it is reassuring to see an employee keen to take on the challenges they are given. If you are given opportunities for additional work or to help your new colleagues, it is advisable to say yes. This will not only show you in a positive light but will also help you to learn more about your new role and get to know your colleagues better. It is a good thing to be seen as a team player. Of course you don’t want to come across as ‘overeager’ though – remember, everything in moderation.

Set Yourself Limits

However, try not to take on an unrealistic amount of work during your first couple of weeks. Work can take longer to do as you settle in; taking on too much too early could mean that you miss deadlines as you have too much to do. Try not to bite off more than you can chew too early on. From a business perspective the phrase often used is ‘under-promise and over-deliver’. That way you will always surpass expectations.

Be Realistic

Settling into a new job can often take longer than you expect, even when you have held a similar position previously. Colleagues have been at your new organization for longer than you and will know the job better as a result. Try not to compare yourself to your colleagues or place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Your work will be slower as you settle in and it may be tiring to settle in. Likewise, they will have formed social ‘cliques’ which can be difficult to penetrate for the newcomer. Again this takes time and it may even be a good year before you’re among the ‘in crowd’ being invited out for drinks. Moderate your expectations and try not to take things personally if people are slow getting to know you!

Ask Questions

It is important to ask questions as you settle into your new role. However good to the induction to your job is, there will be questions that you have either on your first day or as you settle in and it is good to ask these as you go. Often asking questions can feel uncomfortable, especially as you are getting to know your colleague and in a quiet office environment. However, it is important to overcome this feeling of awkwardness as it’s much better than just twiddling your thumbs. Remember that everyone asks questions as they settle in and it is much better that you do instead of carrying out your job incorrectly. If you feel uncomfortable asking one person a large number of questions consider asking several colleagues instead. This will also help you to feel more comfortable with your new team and give them a chance to get to know you.

As an added bonus, we are psychologically more inclined to warm to people who ask for help and who we perform favors for, so this is a good way to make some friends!

Get to Know Your Colleagues

The first few weeks of your new job should not only be spent learning your new role but also getting to know your new team. This can be done in many ways, ranging from having conversations with them in the office, having lunch together or having a drink together after work. It is important to put in the time to acquaint yourself with your colleagues. If they give you an invitation aim to accept it. This will show your colleagues that you are interested in spending time with them and give them the chance to get to know what you are like. Likewise, this will also help you to feel settled in sooner.

What if no invitation comes? After a short period of time you can start creating opportunities of your own. You don’t have to organize the next office social event but inviting one or two colleagues to visit a café with you one lunch time can be a great start!

Remain Professional

It can be great to make friends at work and feel comfortable with your colleagues. However, bear in mind the need to be professional in your new role. If colleagues are talking to you at your desk gauge the room; if the rest of the office is silent you may be disruptive by talking. Instead, continue the discussion after work.

Likewise, do not take part in gossip about your new colleagues. Your employer will be monitoring you as you settle into your new role and unprofessional behavior could be of concern to them. What’s more, gossiping about colleagues is actually one of the surest ways to get gossiped about. While it might be tempting to join in as a way to get liked, it’s actually very important to try and rise above it and remain neutral.

Maintain Your Social Life Outside of Work

You know the surest way to prevent yourself from fitting in at work? To want it too badly. In this case you will risk coming across as overly clingy which is just unappealing and will make you nervous. This is why it’s so important not to pin too much hope on developing a social life at work – your primary friendships should be with people detached from work so that it really doesn’t matter whether you become fast friends with colleagues or not. Consider it a nice bonus if you do!

Be Honest

If you find that you are having problems with your new role or in settling in, it is important to discuss these with your employer. Gritting your teeth might feel better but it will be worse in the long run. Always discuss difficulties you are having with your employer who will be able to resolve these with you.

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Keith Hillman

Keith Hillman is a full time writer specializing in psychology as well as the broader health niche. He has a BSc degree in psychology from Surrey University, where he particularly focused on neuroscience and biological psychology. Since then, he has written countless articles on a range of topics within psychology for numerous of magazines and websites. He continues to be an avid reader of the latest studies and books on the subject, as well as self-development literature.

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