Back in June, I wrote a post describing some of the initial pain points of re-entering the corporate world after years in a role as a consultant. Much of the challenge is acclimating to the new physical environment – dress codes, standard work hours, staff meetings and the like. All of the brick & mortar adaptations that initially shock our system. But is that really the tough part?
Not for a consultant – any freelancer worth his or her salt can play the part when needed, going full-time corporate just requires you to build new habits. It can be challenging, but habits are just a matter of mechanics, right?
No, the hard part comes when you start playing in the sandbox with the other kids. And, unfortunately, you are the new kid on the playground. Now we’re talking fun…and it comes in different flavors.
- Your New Superiors – Hopefully, these are the same people you spoke with in the interview process. I’ve actually had a situation where the person who had hired me informed me on Day 1 that she was actually on the way out (gleefully, no less.) Assuming you dodge that situation, you should enjoy the honeymoon phase where you’re treated like the new puppy on Christmas. As a former consultant, you are actually looked at as a source for best practices, i.e. “what are other people doing?” Don’t hold back, but don’t try to change the world in a day. Pick 1 or 2 of your favorite initiatives and try not to be too confident that “the new way” is the better way. Advice: Find a Sr Leader outside of your direct line to act as a mentor and champion. Savor the moment, but also realize others are watching this dynamic & it may not always be in a favorable light. Like, for instance….
- Your New Peers – This could go any number of ways, not all good. Are you crashing someone else’s plan for a promotion? How about compensation? Generally, when someone is pursuing you to come on board, there needs to be some sort of financial enticement. Not always, but often. True story – when I was hired at CVS Caremark as a new member of the HRBP team, I found a curious dynamic in place. Every other HRBP had visibility to the income of their peers; we were all walking around knowing what our “teammates” were paid. S-T-U-P-I-D is a term that comes to mind. If your goal is to last for more than a year, it behooves you to prove to these new colleagues that you’ve got more to offer than a lot of headlines you brought home from Disruptive HR. This is the group you must befriend, trust, and eventually become. Most of the time you will find your way into the fabric of the group after they’ve sniffed your butt a few times, until then – no sudden movement.
- Your New Subordinates – Easily the trickiest part of being the FNG. Especially now, in the world of social transparency – before setting foot on-site at your new employer, your new peeps have clocked you completely. For a yahoo like me, there’s plenty of fodder available. There will almost certainly be pre-conceived notions of who/what you are and any number of your opinions of, say……human resources, for instance? Let’s say you’re a blogger (Miller-Merrell, you feelin’ me?) who has railed about the inefficiencies of staffing processes? Well, walk lightly, as your new subs may feel a bit tedious about the new leader in their midst. When your aim is to lead a team, you must make certain said team doesn’t circle the wagons as a way to shield themselves from your influence. Yep, it happens. Could be they actually liked (or God forbid, loved) the leader who preceded you. That makes you an uninvited guest – and despite reporting hierarchies, they outnumber you pal, so it behooves you to at least try to win them over. Nobody said it was easy….that’s why you’re here.
If, as Plato stated, human behavior is derived from desire, emotion, and knowledge, you must examine each group & determine their respective motivations. In my own experience, that translates into – be honest, be transparent, share information, and somehow convey the message that you do really care about them and your new employer.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.