It’s tough being the new kid. This is true when you’re an actual kid adjusting to a new school, or when you’re a grown-up who’s just landed a new job. The latter situation can lead people to overcompensate for anxiety with extreme behaviors, and according to author and marketing professional Ashley Faus, this can be a real problem.
Fortunately, Faus has penned a Daily Muse piece titled “Rookie Mistakes: 5 Extremes to Avoid,” and it’s a terrific primer on how to avoid being “that person,” as she calls it, at the office.
Faus’ first tip is balancing over-asking and never asking. When you’re new to a job, you’ll invariably have a lot of questions, and that means you need to decide between searching for answers (and risking getting things wrong) or constantly bugging your colleagues with queries about this, that, and the other. As Faus writes, it’s OK to ask questions if you’ve genuinely tried to find the answer on your own. The smart play, though, is to “batch” your questions together — or wait until you have a bunch on the same topic, and then make time to speak with the person who can answer them.
Next up, Faus cautions against being a know-it-all who waltzes into a new environment and starts suggesting changes. Then again, you don’t want to be the perpetual newcomer who feels unqualified to share new ideas. The proper strategy here, she says, is to take a few weeks to get the lay of the land, then consider contributing thoughts on how things might run more efficiently.
“Try giving feedback with a humble but convincing tone, and frame your ideas as suggestions rather than criticism,” Faus writes.
On the topic of sharing, Faus’ next set of extremes has to do with updating higher-ups on work progress. You can either be an “ultra CC’er” or an “information hoarder,” she says, and the key to choosing which path to pursue is asking your managers and colleagues flat out how they like to be kept abreast of how things are moving. If your boss wants regular updates, provide them. If a summary at the very end is preferable, go that route and don’t clog their inbox with a million messages along the way.
The goal, after all, is for people to respect you and your work, and that ties in with Faus’ next pair of extreme behaviors: over-promising vs. naysaying. When people come to you with assignments, will you say “yes” to absolutely everything and spread yourself super thin, or will you give excuses for why you can’t possibly deliver what’s being asked of you? Since neither is good, Faus suggests that “yes”-loving workers only take on new projects when they have the bandwidth to go a good job and not neglect other duties. On the flip side, naysayers with serious doubts about projects should voice concerns “in a way that looks for a solution, not an out, to the problem.” That way, you’ll still seem like a team player.
Finally, Faus looks at coworker relations and the question of whether to be an “open book” or a “clam” when it comes to talking about your personal life. While you don’t want to be a TMI oversharer, keeping to yourself might lead people to find you hostile or unfriendly. Faus’ suggestion: Stick to the classic rule of “no politics, religion, or bodily functions” and tell new colleagues about your interests and hobbies. If you have a few topics ready to discuss, it’ll be that much easier.