Bosses usually start with an announcement before the person shows up. Employees hear about the new hire’s capabilities and experiences. They often hear high praise for how s/he will strengthen the team. Enough already!
New employees mean change.
Adding someone new to the mix changes its chemistry. A new teammate comes with unknowns like his/her:
- Personality traits, moods, ability and willingness to collaborate
- Work ethic, skills and knowledge, learning curve
- Personal aspirations, competitiveness, trustworthiness
- Performance standards, communication style, principles
Existing employees are full of curiosity and questions, even if the new employee is someone they know or know about. Each will feel out the new person in their own way, deciding what kind of relationship they will try to build. In turn, they may also modify or adjust their relationships with others on the team.
Everyone adjusts their alignments in some way.
While this is going on, the boss is being watched to figure out:
- What is his/her relationship with the new employee?
- Does the newbie enjoy any favored status?
- Might the boss change his/her opinion of existing team members based on the way the new employee is accepted?
By the natural order of things, the team dynamic starts to recalibrate. The pecking order is revisited. When supervisors don’t manage this change, they’re asking for trouble.
Focus on the team
Existing employees often feel diminished or even set aside when someone new comes on board. We often feel that we need to compete with this new person to show the boss that we are as good or better.
The supervisor’s job is to create an environment where employees work effectively together, as a unit. That includes keeping a keen eye on the collective chemistry of the team, intervening when relationships aren’t what they need to be.
Every time a new employee is added, the chemistry changes. It can be obvious immediately or surface gradually. Supervisors who guide these changes never miss a beat.
Steps to take
Smart supervisors take advantage of staff changes to refocus the team by following steps like these:
1. Gather the team together for introductions.
- Introduce the new employee and review their role.
- Have each team member introduce themselves and summarize their role.
- Comment, as the supervisor, on the value each contributes.
2. Schedule a team meeting to revisit and update position descriptions.
- Explain the importance of keeping position descriptions current.
- Have employees suggest description changes/additions/clarification.
- Lead discussion to resolve issues and incorporate revisions.
- Finalize description updates.
4. Schedule a team meeting to review the status of work group goals.
- Share accomplishments to date and goals at risk.
- Engage the new and existing employees in discussion about how they can/need to assist/support each other around specific goals.
- State that you’ll be meeting with the new employee to finalize their individual goals so they align with the work group’s goals.
5. Where useful, arrange for the new employee to spend time with each team member to learn about their work first-hand.
The primary chemical element is you
As supervisors, we are the first chemical element put in the beaker. The way we introduce and engage new employees demonstrates our recognition of how good chemistry can solidify a team.
Supervisors who don’t understand or care about team chemistry will likely experience an eventual explosion.
Show your team that you care by the way you manage their chemistry. There’s nothing better than elements that bond together to create something good. Avoid the big bang!
Photo from Horia Varlan via Flickr