Talk about environment changes, I can tell you a lot about that, being relocated not once but twice in the recent years. Some could say fortunately for me Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are still cosmopolitan cities and others pointed out that I am still surrounded in a comfort zone, speaking the same language, eating familiar food. I agree to a certain extent that it not that difficult for me to blend in. However, when comes to work culture, it’s a totally different ball game all together.
Today, we are not going to delve on the different countries but on how to manage yourself in a different environment. It can be you are going to a new company or a new role in a new department or like me, a new country. Let’s help you to prepare yourself for the change.
Folks always give the advice “to adapt” but what does it really means? To me, it means changing yourself to suit the environment yet without really change who you are. You being accepted in the new role means your boss actually wants or like your personality during the interview, changing totally who you are to fit in the culture will defeat the purpose he hire you for this role.
Helen* was lamenting to me over lunch the other day on how she thought she hired the perfect guy for a job in her department. She was so confident that this guy is easily going to be the star player in her team, him being a very experienced sales person, bringing in a lot of big accounts from his previous job, that she boasted to her rival teammate that she is so going to exceed their target this quarter. Helen thought that this guy will come in and make the rest of her lazy team to sit and buck up.
Well, John* came and Helen was glad that he seems to settle in pretty well and the team members all like him. In less than a month, he started to pick up their bad habits, coming in late for work, making excuses for not meeting the deadline etc. Helen was puzzled and checked with one of her friends who used to work with John in the previous company and was told John is what she thought he is a go-getter hardworking chap.
So what is wrong here?
With her friend’s confirmation, Helen decided to give John one more chance and sat him down one afternoon. They spent 3 hours talking.
John was miserable at his last job because everyone hated him for being a star performer so he promised himself to blend in in this new job so he can make more friends. Making friends in your new work environment is a good thing but he overdid it and put his position at risk.
Fortunately for John, Helen still believes in him and gave him regular coaching to deal with his situation. He managed to balance performing his best and having his co-workers liking him. He did it by not thinking like an individual performer but more from a team point of view. He also learnt to take a step back if it is someone else’s turn to shine, be it his idea is better, and try to incorporate his initial idea into his team mate’s idea. That was two years ago and just last week, John is up for a promotion end of this month.
So what is changing yourself to suit the environment?
Its like mirroring the others in the department but only copying the correct actions and attitude. Observation is at play here, do not jump into the deep blue sea without at least observing these few points:
– Your peers
How do they interact with each other? Do they like each other or is it purely professional? How do they interact with your superior (in meeting and outside)?
– Your management
How do they interact with their teams? What is their style of managing (micro, macro etc.)? What is your direct superior’s personality (quiet, arrogant, positive etc.)?
– Your team (if any)
Who are they and what are their personalities? More than often, we hire the people with personalities most agreeable with us. So who hire them? What are their habits? Before you came along, who did they report to? How do they feel about the person?
With the above knowledge at hand, you will be able to mirror some of the best behaviour, giving a fast illusion that you are blending in and fitting into the culture while giving yourself more time to adapt at your own pace. However, do remember you want to follow the best behaviour in the office and still be yourself.
So do you find the above article useful? If you do try the above method out, please let me know how it works for you by dropping a remark below or reach me at email@example.com.