Yorktown Heights Human Resources Expert Lisa J. Stamatelos’ Advice for Navigating a New Office

New to an office or company? Here’s what not to do when you’re the new kid on the block.

Starting a new job is a lot like “being the new kid in school, coming in in the middle of the year,” says Lisa J. Stamatelos, president of LJS HR Services, an HR consulting firm in Yorktown Heights. “All the cliques are established.” Here, her five tips on what not to do as the “new person.”

Don’t: Fall for cliques’ hype.
“The thing you need to be most careful of,” Stamatelos says, is becoming part of factions that will try to recruit you to their sides of pre-existing office conflicts. “They want that ammunition.” She recommends maintaining diplomacy by saying, for instance, that you haven’t had a chance to get to know a person who is being talked about or to read up on a policy that is being criticized. She also recommends that newbies hang out with different groups in the beginning. “If you do like a few people, that’s great, but make it a point to meet other people. You don’t know who’s who in the zoo! You may have hooked on to the trouble-making group.”
She adds, “I’ve not yet been to a company of more than two people that doesn’t have office politics, cliques, and issues,” she says.

Don’t: Impose your style right off the bat.
Especially if you’re not in a managerial position, Stamatelos says, take time to “get the lay of the land. Does everyone come in at seven in the morning or at five after nine? Do they tend to bring their lunch or all go out for lunch together?” Departing too conspicuously from norms, she says, puts you at risk for being perceived as a haughty or stubborn person who can’t work with the team.

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Don’t: Be a show-off.
In the beginning, Stamatelos says, “you’re very excited, and you want to show what you know—but people can be very funny.” They might be attached to their way of doing things or just resent those with new ideas as know-it-alls. Again, diplomacy is key. Good ideas include pointing out that your coworkers have the experience to know if a given solution would work at a given company. And, generally, coworkers like to be consulted and included by new people making suggestions. “You have to be genteel.”

Don’t: Come in as a “gangbusters” manager.
Yes, you were hired to lead, even to shake things up, but Stamatelos points out that you still need cooperative workers, which almost always means ones who feel comfortable and empowered. If, as a new manager, you have cuts to make, she recommends letting your team know that you appreciate them and even asking them where they think costs could be reduced. “They’re not gonna like a cut any better, but it’s more palatable.”

Don’t: Lose patience or confidence.
Many HR managers say it takes about six months to really know your job, and—while it could happen faster—it could also take a year or longer. But keep in mind: “You got hired for a reason,” Stamatelos says.

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