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August 2012


When I got my last new job I came in like a hurricane: full of energy, ideas, optimism, and a big fat ego. I had very little EQ in those days and made every mistake in the world assimilating to my new boss and peers. Even after all these years of focused attention on onboarding, I still see new employees making the same mistakes. I thought I would write about it this month, to share some ideas on how to make the new job experience better on both sides, by using a little Emotional Intelligence.


Warm Regards,

Onboarding Yourself


For the last few years organizations have been focused on creating engaging onboarding programs to replace their old stand-alone "orientation" day. The research has been conclusive that a bad onboarding experience of an employee results in higher turnover in the first 90 days. And to their credit, many companies have taken 100% responsibility for the onboarding experience of the workforce. But what about the other side of that equation? Shouldn't a new employee also be responsible for their own new-hire experience? We think so.


Michael, a new employee we recently met with started a new job with a dreamy expectation that the position would be custom made to be a perfect fit for him, that his manager would make adjustments to meet his needs, and that he had finally found a culture better than his last one. As tempting as that way of thinking is, it's time for a reality wake up call. You are setting yourself and your company up to fail if you think that way. As a new employee, you have a responsibility to use some Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to ensure the success of your onboarding experience by doing some of the following.  Your whole employment experience and career path at the organization depends on it:

  • Spend the first 30 days using your eyes and ears, not your mouth. Simple statements made by well-meaning new employees are an instant source of annoyance and red flags for bosses and new co-workers. Comments like "At my last job...", "I know a much better way to do that...", "We did that so much better where I used to work". No one feels good about someone coming into their "home" and telling them how to run it.  There will be the appropriate emotionally intelligent manner and timing to share your fresh insight and ideas.  You need to earn the right to share it by being a respectful and educated "guest" first. By using the foundational Emotional Intelligence skills of self-awareness and self-control, you can choose appropriate opportunities to provide constructive input, but do it sparingly in the first few months.  
  • Introduce yourself and build relationships proactively instead of waiting for people to come to you. People are busy. If you landed lunch with your new boss on your first day, consider yourself fortunate to be perceived as a priority. Using the social skill aspect of EQ, reach out to your new peers and invite them to have coffee or a meeting and focus on first learning about what they do, what they did before this, their schooling, what they enjoy about the company, etc.  IF they ask, share your own, and if they don't simply share your hopes for your current position and ask how you might help with their goals.  People help those who help them first.
  • Don't expect the culture or other employees to adjust to you.Odds are the company culture has been around a while. There won't be a sudden change in the dynamic of how people communicate, how work gets delegated, when deadlines are due, or how training is done, merely because of your presence. Think something could be done in a more efficient way use your empathy to try and figure out the why behind the current approach and give yourself time to evaluate your first negative assessment.  After a few months you will have enough experiential evidence to provide a sound a profressional case for change.
  • The behaviors you used at your old company that worked well there may not transfer well to your new company. That's right, the things that earned you praise before may now get you in hot water. Don't assume that you can plug and play the way you behaved before in your new job. Use your social awareness

    to find people in the organization who are good models for behaviors that breed success in your new company. Watch them, meet them, learn from them.  They are your new unofficial guides for what can stay from your wealth of past learnings and what's got to go.

  • Don't assume you know everything about the company because you did online research during the interview process. Learn the history of your organization as told by those on the ground, not just what made it on to the website. Understand legacy practices and why they were put in place. Check your ego to show respect for others who have been there before you, no matter what their role is.

Getting the right employee hired is only half of the equation; the organization also has the responsibility to provide a new employee with tools to be successful. And, the new employee must also understand their part in getting well integrated into a new organization.

We would love to hear about your onboarding secrets or funny stories on what you have seen not to do, contact us at