Starting work at a new organisation can be a nerve-wracking prospect. It is incredibly important for new hires to be able to discern the many intangibles of their new workplace. Here are 5 things that new hires should be paying attention to in their workplace.
- How willing are your colleagues to raise issues to your boss?
While the idea of “my door is always open” is one that is commonly claimed by many bosses, the reality is often quite different from that. It is not uncommon for communication in organisations to be like a waterfall; i.e. it flows downwards in a single direction and anything trying to go upstream faces a ton of resistance. Much like how the head of state must surround themselves with trusted advisors and a competent cabinet, a boss must be willing to listen to his subordinates. Perhaps it may not be so blatant as a refusal to hear feedback, but a failure to foster a culture of open communication is equally damaging in the eventual outcome.
- Do your colleagues frequently work overtime?
Working overtime is a phenomenon that can be viewed very differently in different working cultures. Some damn it, some openly encourage it. As professionals, we recognise the necessity of working overtime where the situation demands it, and this is not the issue that we want to observe here. What employees should be wary of, however, is the persistent, chronic habit of working overtime. This is a red light as it belies many possible underlying issues, such as a direct mental association of overtime with hard work, or a pervasive set of inefficiencies that result in the need to work overtime.
- How does the team react to adversity?
It’s easy to look like a well-oiled machine when all the gears are in place and the system is chugging along as expected. The true test of a team’s mettle comes when deadlines loom or fires start. Is the response blind panic? Shifting blame, perhaps? Or is it a calm, measured assessment of the steps required to remediate the issue? If it’s the last of the three, you’ve struck gold. Such responses tend to be deeply ingrained in the psyche of teams, often perpetuated from the top down. Because of this, the team’s response to adversity is a difficult one to change, and is important to note in the early stages of work.
- How frequent is the turnover rate in your team?
“The grass is always greener on the other side”, goes the old adage, and indeed, it is not uncommon in the modern job market to see employees changing jobs every few years. Loyalty is a waning quality. However, an unusually high turnover rate can be indicative of systemic deficiencies that employees feel are hindering to their work and growth. The same thing can be said of a mass exodus, where many employees leave within a short stretch of time. It is important for fresher employees to take note of these behaviours and to attempt to discern the underlying causes of the movement.
- Do meetings frequently overrun or start late?
Far from being a minor annoyance, the lack of adherence to stipulated meeting timings can be a tell-tale indicator of multiple aspects of an organisation’s culture. For example, frequently starting late indicates a lack of respect for colleagues schedules, and highlights the mentality of “My work and time is more important than yours”. Frequently ending late could indicate either a poor sense of estimation of the task at hand, the lack of ability to focus on a single topic and propensity to be side-tracked, and again, a lack of respect for the attendee’s schedules.
While this list is far from definitive, and definitely not exhaustive, it is a good starting point for new hires to begin to assess the culture of the company they have begun to work in. Indeed, some may want to start scouting information on these aspects even during the job prospecting phase, in order to sift out organisations which may have deal-breaking deficiencies in one or more of the above areas.