How to Adjust to a New Team

I recently had one of my readers write in and ask me the following question:

“I just started a new engineering position, and my boss would like me to speak up to show the team that I’m knowledgeable.  I’m not sure what to do.”

Here’s the letter I wrote back responding to my reader’s question:

Dear Femgineer Reader:

First congratulations on the new gig!

Coincidentally, I’ve been in your bosses position before so I understand where he is coming from.  I don’t know him, but I’m guessing his primary goal is to make sure that you’re adjusting to the team, and that they are accept you so that you can all work together happily and productively.  As a result, he is encouraging you to speak up and even giving you a gentle nudge to do so.

I don’t know you very well, but in new situations you might be someone who likes to take sometime to learn the ropes, gauge people, their communication style, and establish a level of comfort before you actively contribute.

If that is indeed the case, then here is what I suggest to have a smooth transition.  I’m a firm believer in setting expectations so that people aren’t thrown off by your behavior.  To this end, start by letting your boss know your general style.  Since your job involves engineering, you might be someone who needs to first understand projects and process before you go out becoming buddies with everyone on the team. Whatever your approach is think about it, and then have a conversation with your boss during your next 1-1, you can frame it something like this:

“Hey Mr. Boss, I’m really excited to be here! This week I’ve learned XYZ.  I know you want me to speak up so that people know I’m smart and talented, but I just wanted you to know that usually in the first month of starting a new job I generally do X, then Y, and then Z.  Then when I feel like I have a good understanding, and start to develop a rapport with my teammates I will be more open to speaking up.  Does that make sense and help you understand where I am coming from a bit better?”

Now if that’s not the case, and its more that you’re shy then one way to overcome that is by getting a little bit more comfortable with your teammates.  You could start by just having lunch with each individually or as a group.  The more comfortable you feel with others, the more likely you are to want to contribute.

Finally, I’d say congratulations on having a boss that actually cares and wants to hear your opinion, those are a rare breed.  So when you end your conversation, be sure to let him know that!  Tell him, “Thanks for taking this time to chat with me.  I appreciate you encouraging me to contribute, and I certainly well.  I also appreciate that you see where I’m coming from and can understand my approach.”

Main takeaways:

  • Acknowledge and address your boss’ concern during a 1-1.
  • Set expectations by figuring out what your style of learning and collaborating is, and telling your boss .
  • Building a rapport will make it easier to collaborate with your team.  To establish tis you need to make it a point to get to know your teammates, what they work on, and their general interests.
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