Feeling Tense? Hate the New Guy? It Might be Making YOU Better at Your Job!

Maren Hogan Maren Hogan, Performance

In the latest from the “research from people who do annoying studies to prove bloggers wrong” series, a study from researcher Katie Liljenquist suggests that “the new guy” (or gal) can actually make us better at our job.

Lijenquist’s findings show that “socially distinct outsiders” actually make for a more effective team than a team with perceived “cohesiveness”. Or in simple terms, we don’t have to like each other, in fact, it’s probably better if we don’t all get along, as it makes us better at our jobs.

It makes sense. I recently had a friend over for dinner and I asked how his job was going. He stated it was going well but mentioned that a new boss was making everyone fight for their jobs. He seemed irritated himself but said his coworkers were certainly performing better. While not a comfortable situation for him or his coworkers, reports from his store proved that numbers were soaring.

What does this mean? Let’s look at it from a couple of different angles:

Recruiting Professionals: Well for one, culture fit may be a little less important to overall effectiveness than we originally thought. What initially seems like a perfect fit, may end up being the “weakest link” in terms of the best person for the job.

Managers: Choosing a team to work on a crucial project? It’s NOT the same as choosing sides in kickball. Just because people like each other doesn’t mean they are the best choice to work together on a project. The folks that “stand out” create tension and force other members of the team to analyze information more accurately.

HR Pros: Don’t ignore diversity efforts. Diversity means bringing different people to the table, creating the tension that Liljenquist says can create better performance. Recognize that by hiring like-minded employees you may not be seeing to the company’s long-term best interest.

Employees: Recognize that in this economy, there are going to be a lot of new faces, whether you’re changing jobs, being reorganized, taking on extra duties or hiring a new team member. Understand that being comfortable is not the same as being successful. Embrace it! Be okay with getting “bumped”.

P.S. Please get down on your knees and thank me for being the ONLY person who blogged about this without mentioning Dwight Shrute. Oh…dang it.