(TNS)—Q: I’ve taken a job in a new department at my company, and it’s been a hard transition. I’m a very structured person, and my new group doesn’t have set processes or ways of doing things (which I think we need). How should I handle this?
A: Acceptance and adjustment on both sides will help you make the transition.
The Inner Game
Just as individuals have temperaments, so do teams and organizations. Regarding these as legitimate differences can help neutralize your reaction so that you’re not in a “right vs. wrong” state of mind. Imagine, for example, what either option (structured vs. flexible) looks like in the extreme. Have fun with this, creating outrageous stereotypes to help you see how far apart, or close, you really are.
Take some time for reflection, thinking about core values vs. preferences and habits. For example, consider this: If you decide to just go with the flow on a particular project, would you say it cuts close to your personal identity or makes you uncomfortable because it’s different?
How are you getting on with the people? Even though they may have different work styles than you, it’ll be easier to adjust if you’re establishing mutual respect. (If they are not respectful of you and your style, that’s another matter.)
Then think about the reasons you were hired. It’s very possible that your new boss was looking for a balance to the flexible approach that currently prevails in the department. If this isn’t clear to you, have a chat about it so that you feel more grounded in your perspective.
Finally, think about alternative possible outcomes. What would be your ideal with this team, what does it look like, how does work get done, how do people interact? What would be an unsustainable option, where you’d decide to pursue a different option? And how long do you want to dedicate to making this work?
The Outer Game
As a first step, try creating structure for yourself, knowing that it’s likely to be disrupted. As a planner, you probably already build in plenty of contingencies — take that to the next level. When you can, engage the side of you that feels better when things are under control so that need is met. It may make it easier to feel less in control in other situations.
Talk to your boss and then your teammates about style differences. If you haven’t done so, an assessment such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator may help make it vivid to all of you, and also highlight the benefits of diversity.
Challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone. Force yourself to move forward with incomplete information, take steps without a 100 percent clear outcome, or adapt to the less structured approach in some other way. You’ll likely find that you grow as a result.
And be patient. Adapting to a new work environment takes time. If you’re just in your first weeks or months there, you may still just be getting used to things. Celebrate successes as they come, and practice dealing with ambiguity in the meantime.
The Last Word
As you learn from others’ styles, they’ll benefit from yours, too.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience.
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