Discussion of inclusivity is on the rise, especially on the heels of heightened racial tension. While it is good to have meaningful conversations about our differences in general, our purpose here will be to examine the inclusion of the new hire in the workplace.
The initial experience
On the first day of work, new hires meet others and attempt to establish a stable relationship and leave a good lasting impression. They want to lead with their best foot forward, and they want others to think well of them right away. Existing coworkers are often “happy to meet” the new hire. During the first week of employment, new hires often hear their new coworkers say things like: “You’re back today! I guess we haven’t scared you off yet.” Statements like this may continue until coworkers have an opportunity to learn more about the new hire and can carry on a more substantial conversation.
Then comes the transition. Right around the second or third week, the new hire gets comfortable with new surroundings and ventures to reveal a deeper layer of their personality or past story. Statements trigger an outward response from other coworkers; or, people form opinions quietly in their minds. As lovely as it would be to have people think well of the new hire, most naturally think critically. If the new hire has not conformed to the workplace cultural norms, they are in danger of becoming the proverbial outcast.
Conversely, the result of existing employees’ positive thoughts toward the new hire is included in certain work circles. They include their new coworker in lunch outings and activities. Note that we’re not talking about the first day or two when someone is assigned to the new hire to take them to lunch and show them around.
Unfortunately, when people form negative opinions about a new hire, it often results in exclusion. The new hire might sit at the same lunch/break table with those who think negatively about them for a time, but the group may not engage in many conversations with the new person, essentially crowding the “intruder” out.
Coworkers may overlook and ignore what the new hire says. They might give a courteous laugh when the new person contributes to the discussion. They may carry on a conversation that excludes the new hire by not making eye contact or asking for their input. No one asks the new hire anything, and they won’t notify them that they are going to lunch or on a break. They will often hop in a car to go out to lunch and walk past the new hire’s cubicle or work station without saying a word to them.
The new hire will now have to adapt to his or her new reality of feeling like an outcast. With maybe only one or two relationships at the workplace, he or she can get by. They enter into survival mode. They may want to keep their head down and work hard to at least gain the approval of their supervisor and immediate coworkers.
Maybe you think they never learned social skills, or you’re thinking, “Suck it up, Buttercup,” or “If you want to play with the big boys, you need to [fill in the blank].” Somehow you feel like you had to earn inclusion in “the inner circle,” so now they have to.
Or maybe YOU are that person feeling excluded! Perhaps you can identify with how they are feeling. Is this your story?
The difference YOU can make
As a human being, how are you contributing to society or your organization? Consider how someone new to the fold is thinking and feeling. They, like you, when you were new, have a million thoughts swirling in their heads – all the “what ifs.” What if I’m not good enough at my new job? What if I don’t get along with my new boss? What if I don’t fit in?
Even at the risk of looking odd to your inner circle, you can and should be the “bigger person.” Some compassion and empathy can make the difference between someone shrinking back and thriving. We should all want people to succeed. After all, it helps the company to have thriving employees. It helps YOU when your coworkers thrive.
One way you can help someone new to integrate is to be the one who accepts them right away, without knowing much about them yet, and going out of your way to invite them to lunch. Not just once – but until it becomes routine for them to join the group on their own.
Publically point out something your new coworker has already accomplished, no matter how small, to bring recognition and boost their confidence. A little praise from a new coworker or their leader goes a long way.
Compliment them or just share a kind word each day to let them know they are seen and valued.
Why should you be the one?
You show noticeable leadership when you help one person discover their place as a part of the team. They were hired because there were strengths the interviewer noticed would be an asset to the company. Excluding someone also puts up a barrier to the skills and talents the person brings to the organization.
Aside from showing human decency, which is always the right thing to do, inclusion integrates the person and all they bring with them to help the team thrive. Help the new person, help the team – it’s a win-win.