Public
Authored by Paul

Xavier's agent didn't get it

The more information you can get about a job beforehand, the better prepared you will be, but most of the learning about the norms, roles, and values of the organization occur after you start the job.Organizational socialization cannot be avoided.People vary in how quickly they learn workplace norms, role expectations, and the culture of the workplace.People who quickly pick up on these aspects of the work situation have an advantage.Those who do not might struggle with trying to determine how to fit in.Research suggests that good organizational socialization helps employees to be productive sooner.4The quality of those first few days and weeks in a new job or new organization set the stage for all that follows.If you have a good experience right from the start, you form positive impressions that often can affect both your satisfaction with your job and your commitment to the organization.She had heard Onoco was a good place to work.There on her desk was a coffee mug.Caring for your tomorrow today, and on the other side it read simply, Liz Campbell. They know I prefer to be called ‘Liz,’ she thought.Just then her new boss walked in.We are happy to have you with us, Liz. Pointing to the mug, he said, Not sure if you drink coffee or tea.Just a small token to say welcome to our team.Coffee and tea are right down the hall and to the right.Liz thought, I just might like this place. And she did.How would you feel if you arrived at your first day on the job and a mug was sitting on your desk personalized with your name on it?For most of us it would be a nice start.As a token, the mug conveys the message You’re valued, We care about you, You are one of us now. But if Liz’s boss did not value people and his other actions were inconsistent with this gesture, the mug would have been hypocritical.If mugs for newbies had been a company policy but was not seen as important by managers, then any gains would be minimal.If mugs for newbies is consistent with the supervisor’s management style, however, then such a small welcoming gesture could pay dividends.Some companies have formal assimilation programs to help people understand the organization, learn personnel policies, and become informed on available benefits.There might be orientations or training.Other organizations have little or no such programs.Usually, these formal socialization efforts do not occur at the workplace level.What happens in the workplace more likely varies from supervisor to supervisor.Eventually I understood the value of facilitating the transition of the new employees who worked for me.I did the formal stuff, such as our mission, goals, who’s who, policies, and expectations, but I also tried to affect the informal.Supervisors often assign someone to help a new employee learn the ropes.In many cases it is the person who has the time, or can take the time, to show the newbie around and answer questions as they arise.So who has the time?It usually is not your top performers because they are too busy.Their time is much too valuable for such activities.So we turn over the socialization of the new employee to a current employee who might not be the best role model.Is this really what we want to do?Perry, we’ve got that new hire coming in next week in your section.I’d like Rasheed to show him around, help him learn the ropes.You know Rasheed’s our best worker.He’s up to his waist in alligators already.I know, but you know how I feel about bringing the new folks on properly.A little investment now will pay off for us later.Cut Rasheed just a little slack.Be sure he understands how important this is.We’ll make it happen.New employees are going to learn from their interactions with others.Who best for those first interactions than those employees who model the values and attitudes you want to foster in your organization.Ultimately much of what you learn about surviving and succeeding in the organization is from trial and error.We often overlook the fact that the behavior of a new employee is different and is going to be different for a while.If you are not doing this, then you really could be setting yourself up for difficulties.Most of us are trying to fit in, even if we are not conscious of it.People will communicate norm and role expectations to you.If you pick up on these communications, they can help you formulate your own hypotheses about what is going on around you and help you decode the workplace.Listen, observe, and learn.So what is expected of me?How do I stay out of trouble?Who’s getting the rewards?Most people who have been there for a while already have their own answers to such questions.It doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the right answers, but they have moved on and their behavior is different from yours.Much of the learning of the new workplace is trial and error.We get ideas by watching and listening to others.We determine how accurate those ideas are through our experiences in the new workplace.Sam liked his new job.The second week on the job, several of his coworkers invited him out to lunch at a nearby eating establishment.They were seated and the server arrived promptly.He was the only one who had ordered an alcoholic beverage.At his old job, he and his boss had lunch together several times a week and always had a cold beer.I notice I’m the only one with a beer.Anything I need to know?The company frowns on drinking at lunch.Something about image.At least he had the good sense to ask.We bring to every new position our own life and work experiences.These experiences frame our perceptions, filter what we see, give meaning to what we observe, help us process the expectations of others, help us determine how to act.Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, I was not tabula rasa, a blank slate. Rather, I brought with me the experiences of having been a professor at other institutions of higher learning.I had my own template of how to enact the role of professor.I had my own template to help identify salient norms.My previous experiences gave me hypotheses about how to act, how to fit in.But those hypotheses had to be tested with the data of my new workplace.Part of successfully adapting to a new workplace is recognizing any adjustments we need to make to fit in and work effectively.The position that she was offered and that she accepted, however, was at a small liberal arts college.From her experience, Courtney knew the importance of research and publishing in the best journals.She chose to put less effort into the classroom and more into her research.The results were reflected in course evaluations completed by her students.Courtney brought to her new position her own expectations about being a professor that were based on professors at the research university where she had been educated.If she did notice that expectations for the professors at her liberal arts college were different, then she failed to act on that knowledge.She did not adjust to her new workplace environment.Each of us develops a psychological contract during the first weeks and months in a new job.We have expectations about what we are willing to give an organization and what we expect in return.Some of these expectations are upfront and perhaps negotiated during the hiring or promotion process, such as salary, medical benefits, vacation, and childcare.Others are implicit and based on the templates from our previous experiences or evolve during the first weeks and months on the job.For example, what level of effort do you put into your work?Everyone in the office marveled at Karen.If there were a superwoman, she was it.She got the toughest assignments and made them look easy.Admired by all, praised by her bosses, Karen was a wonder.Her coworkers were amazed how anyone could work so hard all of the time.Karen knew how others viewed her and thought, If they only knew. She was a hard worker, a smart worker, with outstanding organizing skills.Although occasionally an assignment would cause her to turn up her effort, most of the time she was on cruise control with plenty of energy to spare.She thought, If I worked as hard as I could, they really would be amazed.Do you give 100% on the job all the time?My guess is that, if you do, you’re on your way to burnout.People work at different levels of effort.Some people give so much at the office there is nothing left when they get home.Others moderate their efforts so that the jobs get done but there also is energy for other activities after work.Many of us find a happy medium that satisfies our employer and ourselves.Few people give it all each and every day.Part of that evolving psychological contract is how hard we will work.We adjust that contract based on how we perceive the rewards.Usually we are the ones who best understand our level of effort.Others see the results, but don’t necessarily see what it took to achieve those results.So, am I advocating coasting in our jobs?The new employee especially must work very hard initially to learn the ropes and get established.But, over time, that employee settles into a level of effort consistent with what’s needed to get the job done and individual factors, such as one’s need to achieve.This level varies for each person, the job, and the situational factors of the job.If you give your very best each and every moment of every day, however, then there will be nothing in reserve for when it is needed.There are times when we turn it on and other times when we work less hard.Another part of the psychological contract is the degree to which you buy into the organization’s values and culture.On one end of a continuum is the organization man, described by William Whyte in the 1950s.5 Some people commit totally to the company and conform unquestioningly to its culture, norms, and roles.The organization person attends every social function, and participates in voluntary activities as requested.The rebel attends no social functions and never does anything that is not absolutely necessary.Most of us fall somewhere in between the two ends of the spectrum.We buy into certain parts of the company culture but not others.We decide we will attend the company picnic this year but not every year.We will lead the United Fund campaign once but then that’s it for voluntary activities for a while.People differ in what they want from the organization and what they are willing to give.People differ in what memberships in organizations cost them personally, such as time, energy, and how they see the offsetting benefits.Sometimes we really do not know another person’s costs or benefits.Xavier Rodera was an outstanding pitcher for his college baseball team.He led his team to the College World Series and was a national leader in strikeouts.On draft day for professional baseball, he knew he would go high.The only question was which team would acquire rights to him.He went fifth in the draft to the Blue Stockings.The Blue Stockings made an incredibly generous offer with a fine signing bonus.To his agent’s surprise, Xavier hesitated.Xavier, what’s the matter with you?We have everything we could possibly ask for in this offer.What are you waiting for?It’s the hair policy, man.The Blue Stockings want short hair.It’s that ‘no long hair’ thing, man.It’s me.

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