Mimi's viewpoint: breaking into a new team

An

Introduction

When I joined the Multiplex team in 2019 I’d been through an intensive assessment centre process. They’d spent time with me before I joined and I’d had lunch with my boss-to-be to talk about the work I would be doing there. I wrote my experience up as I went through a six month process of on-boarding and I hope it’s useful to whoever reads it.


In my role as a Professional Assistant to the founders of Multiplex I need to write and so writing this post is not very different from what I’m expected to do in my work. I guess that if you use this apprpach for other types of job which are not based so much on writing then you’ll need to find different ways of encouraging reflection. Maybe you can emphasise having the newbie work with a mentor? Whatever you do, an essential part of the success of this journety for me has been the reflection.

Its reflective approach helped me to integrate into the team and the role of Professional Assistant.


Research about induction

There’s not a lot of research about how employees make meaning in their new jobs; most papers write about their experience from the employer’s perspective. I think that this post, seeing the process from my perspective as an employee could be valuable.

Induction is about moving from outside to inside and so my main job was to leave my identity as an unemployed professional and to identify as an integrated member of the Multiplex team. Part of my need was to get access to the information, tools and materials so I could perform my work, and to become familiar with its goals, to build relationships with the team and with a core group of clients and associates.

I wrote an original report in the form of a qualitative research paper focused on how I made meaning of the experience. This gave me the opportunity to see value in reflecting my personal experience and not to worry whether what I went through was generalisable to others. My focus as the “researcher” was not on proving an hypothesis but ultimately, on finding interesting patterns in my experience that I can now share with you.


My on-boarding experience

The beginning of my six-month probation began with enthusiasm and anxiety. I was so aware of wondering ‘what comes next’ and ‘am I doing things right?’ And in the first few days, my anxiety seemed to override my enthusiasm. I felt great pressure to do things right first time and although I knew that this internally created, not coming from the people in my team, I still felt it. On my first day, I noted “I feel the need to do things right, making sure I learn what’s important. I want my bosses to go home at the end of the day and feel like they made a good choice but it’s not just about being liked is it?”


We work in a small office all around a large central table and this added to the pressure I felt. I wasn’t at ease with the intimacy of the setting, not so much the size of the room but more about sitting in such close proximity with J&C. I felt intimidated! I wrote… “I have my boss directly opposite me and I need to get comfortable with it. Maybe the fact that they sit so close gives me the impression that they are watching over me, like a teacher watching over a student. Funny enough as much as this brings discomfort, part of me welcomes it, I feel I need to be taken out of my comfort zone”.

However, getting used to the new environment and my new job was helped by my being left alone in the office so much. Team members were away much of the time, either travelling abroad or with clients in town. Time spent alone like this allowed me to get used to the office setup, then to the work and then eventually to J and C. Getting used to the office, the work and J and C all at the same time would have been overwhelming. I felt relief that I did not have to deal with this all at the same time. Getting used to work like this also gave me a sense of confidence and control over what I was doing. My confidence started to increase as weeks went by; new tasks and working with the team became easier.


At the end of the first week I was starting to feel overwhelmed at the speed I was obviously going to need to work and I realised I had to develop new ways of being efficient.


At the end of the second week I wrote… “I am feeling great today. I don’t foresee having any task that I won’t be able to do. I’m getting the hang of doing things on my own and I am trying my very best to make my own decisions and drive my own progress. I have been in the office alone lately and I think it has been a good way to start”.


Who’s my real manager?

Building a relationship with J and C took longer than I had expected. It progressed with J quicker than with C because I spent a lot more time with him with her. I noticed how I felt more obliged in terms of performance to J than I did to C. A month later I wrote… “I just realized that ever since J started coming into the office more often. I’ve starting feeling more comfortable with him being around; before I think I was getting too comfortable with being by myself. That’s a nice feeling to have”.

A week later I wrote… “I have not seen C for quite a while now but she will be coming into the office today and it will be good to see her. A thought has crossed my mind and I have been hesitant to write about it. I’ve been feeling that J is more my boss than C. I don’t want to be offensive, but I think it’s because he has been in the office more so her and I have worked with him one-on-one more than I have with her even though I’ve done some assignments for her. I also think it’s because I’ve received more feedback from him than from C.


We have had conversations about this over the past few days and had J and C not been so open in talking about how C is not around as much as she should be, I probably would have been a bit reluctant to write about this.


Feedback

“An important part of my probation was the feedback that I got from both J and C. Although it was mostly good, the instances of receiving corrective feedback (I feel that corrective as oppose to negative feedback is a better word to use) stick out like a sore thumb. I noticed how corrective feedback has more impact than positive, maybe because I am on probation. Normally it would seem obvious to me that positive feedback, which has boosted my confidence and encouraged me to take initiative would have a greater weight than corrective feedback, my reflections from the process show how it was the few instances of corrective feedback that had a more lasting impact on me.”


“I noticed how, looking back on times when I was given corrective feedback, the conversations still left me discomfited almost two months later. As I write this I notice that it would be easier for me to say discomfort does not come because of the process of being given corrective feedback. But it actually does. During this time good feedback and corrective feedback are in competition with one another. Starting off I assumed that I would be able to take feedback quiet well, however this was not the case during my probation period. This is an area of improvement for me, I would like to see how I take feedback after my probation period.


A month after I started I wrote… “I got great feedback from C today regarding the Thinking styles assignment that she had given me to do, she said that I exceeded her expectations and that she was very impressed with my work, this really is a confidence booster and has me looking forward to doing more assignments for her”.

A week later I reflected… “So I just received a call from J and it was quite awful. I had sent the (project) minutes of meeting that we had and I did not run them by him first which was an obvious thing to do. I feel really bad as the notes were inaccurate and were not sensitive to the context of the project…” It was hard for me to hear this feedback: it’s a lesson learned but who wants to be the reason for us being perceived as clumsy?”. At the end of that same month when the meeting was due to be repeated I reflected that “I need to now go back and look at the minutes, I feel like a part of me has been putting off doing it even though I have to. I really felt bad for messing up with the minutes and I am clearly not over it”.


Team Performance and lessons learnt

In the early days of my probation period, I got the chance to work with P, a lady that had been a candidate, like myself, for the Professional Assistant role. She had initially come into the office to get feedback. I thought that was very brave and mature. We ended up being given a problem-solving assignment by J that we were asked to work through and later to present a solution. This was a frustrating experience for me, getting out of the comfort zone of working alone and having my own thought process and then being faced with the challenge of working with a completely different personality, who had completely different opinions to mine was not easy. I need to be more engaged working with people.


I have become too used to working alone and feel like a few team tasks will help me work better and get more used to a team setting. This is a topic of discussion I would like to suggest to J and C, working together more often as a team would help me feel more comfortable with sharing my ideas with them as well as build a solid foundation for us as a team. I am assuming that the next phase of my training will have more of these team meetings. Later, I wrote… “I feel as though I need to learn to work with other people but P is a really difficult to work with. I don’t think that the problem we are working on is the challenge I feel as though it is “who” I’m working with that is the challenge”.


IN CONCLUSION

As I wrote this originally I was both the participant and the researcher. As researcher, I had to remind myself not to interpret my experiences over the last four months based on how I would have liked to respond to certain situations but plainly interpreting what was being experienced whether it made me a bit uncomfortable or not. I also sat down this morning and noticed that my paper was a bit more critical of my experience over the past four months than I wanted it to be. I sat down and said okay but where are the good parts. My mindset in writing this paper seemed to be focused on helping employers improve the experiences of employees undergoing probation by making changes or altering their programmes. This is a bit of a discomforting reality to accept. It seems like I went into writing this paper with the mindset of an activist for employees everywhere undergoing probation to promote their experiences of probation. I could say that this was also driven by identifying that there was no focus on employee’s experiences during their probation in current literature. I also noticed just how much of an in-depth analysis I was required to do for this study and I therefore did not take all themes based on my reflections into account, however I feel its important that this be accounted for, I feel that I would need more time for this, to go over my reflections once again and write a longer paper to be more inclusive of my whole experience.