A New Workplace Environment: How Do I Transition Well?

​Ask eAIR covers topics about the work of institutional research, careers in the field, and other broad topics that resonate with a large cross-section of readers. This month’s question is answered by Camille Shepherd, Assessment Specialist in the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at Midwestern State University. The ideas, opinions, and perspectives expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily AIR. Members are invited to join the discussion by commenting below.

Dear Camille: I’m starting a new position in a workplace environment that’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. What suggestions do you have for helping to ensure a smooth transition?

Camille.jpgI recently relocated to Texas (home) after six years at a British university. It has been a transition both in terms of changes to my role and the campus and office environments. In the U.K., I worked on an academic contract in a flexible office, and I telecommuted from home two to three days per week. In the U.S., I’m working in a much more structured and traditional ”8 to 5” office environment.

Embrace change. My advice is to embrace the changes, at least initially. You may think that some aspects of your previous work environment really clicked with you, but sometimes change can be for the better. I found that after going with the flow (and pace) of my new office for a few weeks, I understood that the reason this office runs the way it does is because it is what works best for our interaction with the campus. I have said for a while that “institutions have feelings, too.” While your previous office may have functioned very differently, you’re in a new role in a new place, and it’s important to be open to changes and to embrace your new environment.

I was fortunate that in my first year in the U.K., I was studying for my master’s degree at the institution I ended up working for, and that gave me time to soak in some of the differences in the way institutions there are run versus institutions in the U.S. In my current position, I’ve found that casual conversations over coffee or lunch have been a great help. Reading strategic plans will give you some good (albeit often vague) information about the institution’s goals, but it will only tell you so much.

Take time to transition. Do not take on too many responsibilities at once. When I started my new job, my position had been vacant for several months. There was a backlog of work that needed to be dealt with before I could really think about joining extra committees or networking extensively on campus. Don’t be afraid to keep your head down until you have caught up and have your bearings in your new role. Your input will be far more meaningful once you’ve settled in, understand the environment, and have a clear idea of how you can assist with various projects and committees.

Make suggestions. Once you’ve found your feet, don’t be afraid to make suggestions! You don’t want to be the person who constantly reflects on how things were handled in your old office, but if there are improvements to be made, you should make suggestions based on your insight and experience. I’ve learned that using “we” in suggesting changes helps people feel more like you’re on the same team. “What if we….” sounds far better than “I think we should…” Just make sure that your suggestions are grounded in ideas for meaningful change, rather than attempts to impress your new colleagues with creative ideas.

Do you have suggestions for readers navigating transitions in new workplaces? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

 

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