#Adulting: Learning the ropes of a new job…and the politics

When starting a new job, there is so much to learn and it can be plain overwhelming.  It seems like everyone knows what’s going on and what everything means except you.  Even when people kindly say, “let us know if you have any questions” throughout your on-boarding and training, you might think, “well, I have so many questions, I can’t possibly stop everyone every time there’s something that I need to be clarified”.

Acclimation to a new workplace involves knowing who to go to for what and when.  Yes, there are important processes to learn, skills to develop, knowledge to remember, and resources to discover, but the success of all of this transitioning depends on how well one navigates the scene.  This is usually one of the first things to learn, which requires a lot of self-direction and sensitivity to the politics of the new environment.

When learning a new position, here are some words of wisdom regarding office politics:

  • Every relationship between every department, unit, team, and individual has a history.  Sometimes it’s positive and sometimes it’s messy .  Go into every communication conservatively and ensuring you are not making any assumptions about how things are going between different parties, as you will pick up on this over time.  Ask thoughtful questions along the way about the background of the various aspects of your new work environment.
  • Similarly, there are many relationships outside of work across different units or within teams, therefore messages can spread quickly.  This can can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.
  • Your direct supervisor may or may not have the best answers to your questions or may only be able to offer an incomplete perspective, therefore you’ll want to become familiar with everyone’s roles and what their areas of expertise are.
  • With this in mind, be intentional about who you go to for assistance and questions.  Start with positions lower in the hierarchy who can offer valuable insight before jumping to the top executive leaders.

The main things to remember with learning politics in a new setting is to keep an open mind, recognize your unknowns, be observant, stick to your ethics, and go in ready to tactfully gauge the political landscape.  Everyone and everything is connected in some way and the ripple effect is a common occurrence.  You will start out with a need to learn about the workplace circumstances that you won’t find printed in any training materials.

By Lauren Watson
Lauren Watson Change of Campus Program Coordinator/Career Coach Lauren Watson