DEAR J.T. & DALE: I started a new job two weeks ago. In the interview, my manager was very friendly and he said I would get lots of help. However, since my first day, nobody has helped me at all! Nobody talks to me and I honestly don’t know if I’m doing my job right. It feels very weird. Did I do something wrong? – Kevin
J.T.: Oh dear, it sounds like your company isn’t well versed in the process of “onboarding.” That term refers to giving orientation and training to new hires. Sadly, not all companies have such processes. As a result, you can get hired and feel all alone. I would suggest that you take your onboarding into your own hands. Start by meeting with your boss and asking him to help you develop a 30-60-90-day plan. This should be a list of all the things you should be proficient at doing in those first months on the job. Then, ask who you can tap into in the organization to help you get up to speed in each of these items. Reach out to those people and explain that you are managing your own onboarding, and your boss suggested that they could ensure that you were doing a particular task right. This will help you develop friendships with co-workers, while also making sure you are getting proficient at your job. Best of all, you’ll show your boss that you can take care of yourself!
Dale: Perfect. In fact, every new employee should create a self-advancement and course-correction plan, beyond whatever onboarding the company offers. Start by asking again my favorite interviewee question: “What kind of people do best here?” That will set you up, without bragging, as someone who’s seeking to excel. Also, pay attention at staff meetings to see who are the thought-leaders on what topics; learn who’s gotten promotions recently. It will be easy to figure out patterns, and there it is: your personal path to advancement.
Dear J.T. and Dale: I started a job and I am working with a newly hired co-worker. She is related to one of the managers. She is younger. Many times, she scolds me. And we had a meeting yesterday with both our supervisor and the big boss. She twisted the facts to make it look like my fault. To me, now she is a dishonest person. She can talk very well. I am not good at arguing. English is my second language. I am afraid and feel stressful at work. Please let me know how should I handle this situation. – Kim
J.T.: Your co-worker clearly has a double advantage in any disagreement, so I suggest that you meet with your boss and explain that you are feeling afraid on the job. Tell him or her that, because English is your second language, you are careful not to speak as much. At the same time, because you know your co-worker is related to a manager, you are feeling like you are being judged more harshly and that your co-worker can get you in trouble.
Dale: OK, but whenever you take an issue like this to your manager, you are effectively saying, “Here’s my problem; I’m throwing it to you.” Some bosses revel in being the dad or mom of the department, but many resent it and blame the bringer. So, instead, I suggest asking your boss for a meeting, whereupon you say that you want to succeed and eventually be a star employee. Ask who might be your mentors. If all goes well, this will create allies. Then, do all you can to turn your annoying co-worker’s attitude around. Ask her for advice. If you can make helping you her “project,” then she, too, becomes an ally.
J.T.: If that doesn’t help, then another option is to ask management if you could be moved so that you don’t have to work with this co-worker. If they say that’s not possible, then ask them for advice on what to do when she criticizes you. By bringing them into the conversation and giving them your side of the story privately, they can do a better job of helping you.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.