How To Handle Common Workplace Problems When You’re New


Every workplace has its ups and downs, but how you handle them correlates directly with how high you rank on the food chain. Newly-hired employees tend to keep their heads down when faced with conflict—that makes sense, as rookies are often first on the chopping block. However, this leads to passive-aggressive tendencies and a shortage of the assertiveness you need to move up the ladder. Here’s how to handle being the new guy without getting the pink slip.


Photo: Mad Men

The situation: Your boss wants to take a project in a direction that you don’t personally agree with.
You may disagree with their idea, but they do have a few years on you. Depending on the potential cost of failure, let them know your objections. If they say press on, agree to follow through with their framework, but take extra precautions to avoid the snags you’ve identified. If the idea still fails, then rebuild it until it works. In the end, your boss will be happy and you’ll be credited with the success.

The situation: A co-worker isn’t pulling their weight.
Perhaps a more established peer is shunting work your way because, well, he can. Instead of complaining, turn extra work into a chance to prove yourself. Be honest, perhaps too honest, when updating the head honchos on your personal progress. Regular check-ins show that you can take ownership for your work and create a useful dialogue that ensures you succeed, despite the extra pressure. If you can demonstrate the ability to perform at your colleague’s level, you may be looking at a promotion sooner than you think.

The situation: The company isn’t helping you improve your skills.
If you’re new to an industry, chances on you signed on with the expectation that a company will nurture your skillset. Barring necessary training required to perform certain jobs, if you feel like your superiors aren’t taking an active role in expanding your knowledge, don’t get mad. Some simply don’t believe in coaching, and instead issue challenges that push your limits. Look back on your recent projects and see what lessons you may have missed. You can also watch and learn from co-workers who’ve been on the job longer than you. If you’re still not moving forward, look for a new job.

The situation: A co-worker’s sabotaging you, being abusive, etc.
It’s not uncommon to get picked on by a subtly (or overtly) subversive co-worker when you’re new. If it’s something serious, know that rookies—even those still under a three-month probation period prior to being hired on—legally have most of the same rights as more established workers. As such, it’s well within your rights to get HR involved. Start with peer mediation to find an amicable solution. If the situation escalates, ramp up to making formal complaints or pressing charges.

The situation: You find yourself dragged into pre-existing conflicts.
Even if you’ve been a stellar employee thus far and have cultivated positive professional relationships with your new officemates, there’s always other people’s drama. You can’t avoid it entirely, but you probably shouldn’t try to fix it, either—if the conflict has been going on a while, chances are the higher-ups haven’t been able to sort it out themselves. You’ll have to compromise. Hear out your colleagues when they rant to you, but stop short of choosing sides. This will help keep the conflict at arm’s length.


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