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Afraid of failing at a new job?

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “Two weeks ago, I started a job with a new company. Although my manager initially seemed thrilled to have me on board, I now sense that I’m not living up to her expectations. However, I’m not sure exactly what those expectations are. My main problem is there isn't much structure here.  Random projects are thrown at me by my boss and others. Work is dumped on my desk without explanation. I have no background in this business, so I’m not sure how to approach these tasks.  What can I do?” — Afraid of Failing

Marie’s Answer: Joining a new company is always an adjustment, but some transitions are tougher than others. Here are some things to consider:

•    There could be several reasons for your discomfort. You simply may be in a normal new-job learning curve. You and your manager might have diametrically opposed work styles. Or you could have landed in a completely dysfunctional work environment.  

•    Regardless of the cause, the first step toward solving the problem is to talk with your boss.  Since she’s been shirking her responsibility to get you up to speed, you need to take the initiative and schedule a meeting with her.  

•    Ask what you’re doing well and where you need to improve. Clarify any confusing job duties.  Request help in prioritizing the arbitrary assignments coming at you from all directions. Then schedule regular feedback meetings to assess your progress.

•    Finally, take every opportunity to learn from your co-workers. Joining a new organization is like moving to a foreign country. The “natives” can help you decode the culture and avoid embarrassing blunders.

To assess your own organization's culture, check out How to Spot the "Culture Clues" at Work.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Regretting my Choice to Stay June 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I’ve yet to start a new job and not feel awkward for the first 3-6 months. My motto is give it 6 months to figure out the job and office politics-but sometimes it can take longer. I’m in a job now where I picked up some major red flags the first two weeks on the job AND I should have gotten out when I had the chance. I had other interview opportunities and foolishly turned them down during that time frame. Long story short, I’ve been at my current job for 12 going on 13 years and I’m still here–don’t ask me why. I’ve tried to move on but have not been able to find another job with my current pay structure (benefits lured me in and has kept me in a very stressful, toxic job environment). I’ve learned and grown professionally. I’ve been through some very tough situations with employers and co-workers and have learned not to trust anyone. Hind sight is 20/20 and now I realize that it would have been better for me and my career if I had nipped things in the bud those first few weeks before spending so much time on a job that is not a good fit for me. It’s better to stir the waters now and figure out what’s going on at your new job and set your boundaries up front than to be timid and years later regret it. You may be picking up on a toxic work environment or it may be that this job is not a good fit for you. Sounds like it would be good to really evaluate your situation, job responsibilities, personalities, and overall work environment and be up front with your boss and co-workers before settling in for the long-haul. I wish you the best as you move forward in your new job/career.


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