Thursday, October 7, 2010

Welcome to Dunder Mifflin!

Some dear friends have noticed that the last day of posts on Facebook have been a touch aggravated. Why? Well, I was reflecting on a new person in my work life who seems to suffer from some severe form of IPD. I have a pretty good sense for people and their asshatitude pretty fast. Often before others are willing to call it. I'm wrong sometimes, of course, but I'm right a lot. My running theory on that is that assholes are more likely to show their true colors to a strong woman earlier than to a senior male. I don't attribute much of it to my keen power of perception.

So, this new person was featured in my prior thongcharm post. We met in person yesterday. The conversation was brief - less than 30 minutes. But, it allowed me to reflect on some common errors I believe people can make when joining a new company.

Basic Lack of Politeness. Joining a company is a bit like entering someone's house for the first time. You offer to take off your shoes. You don't just help yourself to cake. Once you have a key and permanent status as "pinch hitting dogsitter," you're allowed to strut in and grab some water and declare that you're poaching the latest episode of the Gilmore Girls. But, on day 1, be polite. That means being timely to meetings, and forgoing those last 5 fries in the name of timeliness and not chewing while you speak.

Arrogance instead of Credibility-Development. The first thing you have to do in a new company is establish your credibility. Sure, someone hired you - so you must be somewhat qualified, but it's helpful to communicate the basis of your knowledge. Communicating where you came from, how you became interested in Paper Products, what made you pursue Dunder Mifflin. And playing the name game so as to seek out common associates (and even common experiences - hey, we both went to Cornell!) All of this builds credibility. Many people seem to take the opposite approach of declaring some longwinded version of "I'm here to kick this team into shape and fix all your stupid!"  Credibility is not about what you think you will do - it's about what got you here.

Leaving the Rose Colored Glasses On. Face it. You joined a company. You were sold a bill of goods. I'm sorry - but that's how it is. To get you through the door, no one told you about the dysfunction in Tim's team or the potential re-org on Rahul's side. What that means is that your somewhat rosy view of the gig you're getting into is already flawed. LET GO. Open your eyes and take in all the data, and adjust your grand master plan (which should be internal, per the prior point) according to the reality of the situation. Otherwise, you're setting yourself for fall after fall.

Telling, not Asking. Let me tell you what Senior_Leader XYZ just said. Let me tell you what they promised me in my interview. Are you even aware of the key goals of the organization? Senior Leader XYZ just told me his 5 key agenda points. Even if you ARE inclined to believe the most senior people in the company (red flag), what's the harm in taking a poll? Ask everyone - what's the goal of your group? What are the challenges you're facing? What's the one thing we need to get right this quarter? If they all align, smashing. If not, you have great new data. Telling me all you know and think you know isn't increasing your knowledge base.

Learning more about the little people.
There's an adage about how the secretary can get you fired. It's so true. A big mistake people make is to enter an organization and treat everyone "beneath them" on the heirarchy as such. First, because in many organizations "beneath" is a rather amorphous measure - I truly cannot tell you where i stand relative to my peers - and in part because many of those folks are going to be the only ones who DO things. And thus have power to help - or not help. So, be particularly delicate when learning about their roles, expressing interest, support, etc. I was the alleged little person in this conversation (though I'm not sure we're not peers - hard to tell). I was dismissed for not having his version of TPS reports, was asked repeatedly to whom I was accountable, and my efforts were dismissed as ineffective in a number of domains. Without, by the way, asking many questions to support this assessment. It was just... implied condesencion.

The biggest and most immediate outcome of this behavior is that people will opt out of supporting you in your entry to the company. They may not be mean or negative. They'll just opt out. When someone awesome joins the group, you know how everyone volunteers the lay of the land, points out potential land mines.. and says things lke "just leave that one alone.. i promise... you don't want to get near that problem"? No one does that for you when you are a jerk. I didn't correct a number of misconception that were expressed, partly as I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Partly because I didn't feel like it. Email response times may degrade as well. Why leap to address the latest missive? I have other priorities. Collect a small bevy of people who feel similarly and you're creating your own organizational logjam. And then you wonder - why is this place so messed up?

Good thing I came in to clean up this mess.

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