Being the newest person on the team is hard.

The new person rarely knows where or how they fit in. Department and company lingo doesn’t make sense. Systems, processes, people’s names, who to talk to about what, and who not to talk to has to be learned. It’s a lot to navigate all while trying to learn a new job.

Last week I had a conversation with someone who is struggling with a situation like this.  She was on-boarded remotely, and although she enjoys working virtually, she is feeling disconnected much of the time and is beginning to feel like a fraud, wondering if she is disappointing her boss by not doing enough fast enough.

Our conversation got me thinking … is this a work-from-home problem or is it a problem regardless?  

I think it is a problem regardless. If you’re not sure if you agree, go back to when you first began your role at the last or current company you were/are with. Do you remember how exhausting it was to learn so much so quickly?

When employees are new they are at their most vulnerable and are most unlikely to take the needed risks needed to do their job well. Risks like asking a question for fear they might look stupid, or withholding valuable input because they fear rejection. This is the reason new employees need psychological safety.  Here is a list of 5 things you can do to create it.

  1. Communicate the new person’s role to others. Give your team a heads up about the role of the new team member. Why was this person hired? Why is their role an important part of the team? Who will they be partnering with? Which tasks are they responsible for, and which tasks are they not responsible for?
  2. Team welcome. Introduce the new employee to the team as a team. In other words, have a team meeting to make the introduction. This is a good time to reiterate the new employee’s role. Make this enjoyable and allow for a bit of socializing.
  3. One-on-ones with each person on the team. Have each person on your team meet with the new employee. Explain what you want them to learn about each other. Put the onus for driving the conversation on the employee who has tenure.
  4. Invite questions over and over and over. Remember, the new employee doesn’t want to look ignorant. More than anything, they don’t want to look ignorant in front of their boss, so they might be reluctant to ask questions especially if they have asked them before. Encourage the new employee to ask ask ask questions. Coach them on how and where to find information so they can seek answer themselves without coming to you next time. Reassure them that asking questions is what you want them to do.
  5. Acknowledge their value. This is important for any employee, and it is especially so for the new employee. Remind them why they were chosen for the job, and openly communicate the contributions you see them making as well as your hopes for where they are going.

In short, be the leader or co-worker you hoped for when you were the new employee.

Need help creating more psychological safety? I can help.