Getting a promotion or landing a new job is always a confidence and morale booster, but what do you do when your arrival is received with faux enthusiasm, at best? While you may be psyched and eager to take on the responsibilities of your new role, your coworkers may be experiencing resentment or uncertainty toward the change. It may be that they were comfortable with your predecessor and just want that person back, or it could be that they feel that your arrival forced their colleague out of the role. But whatever the case, you may feel disliked, begrudged, or merely tolerated by your work mates.
Facing such a hostile environment everyday can lead to job hatred, personal conflicts, and even depression, so how can you go about ameliorating the situation in order to mend bad attitudes and relationships? You have several options for addressing the situation and, depending on your particular circumstances one or more of them may help transform an unfriendly environment into one of cooperation and productivity.
You may feel that your coworkers are being mean to you for no reason, and while it is unfair that you are taking the brunt of their frustrations, it’s important to understand that they are upset about the situation and have little control over how things play out. This makes you the easiest target for placing blame and anger. As such, try to sympathize with their situation and not take their behavior personally. You still have a job to do and the situation should not affect the performance of your duties; but, however you can, cut your coworkers some slack as they try to transition from a once comfortable routine into new territory.
Being new to a company and feeling immediately out of place can be especially tricky to maneuver. At first, you need to spend time learning the details of your predecessor’s exit and how the office ticks. This is somewhat of a clandestine and independent operation since you must avoid participating in gossip, but your goal is to discover the pros and cons of your predecessor’s performance (so you can improve upon it), and what you need to do to make your coworkers happy and cooperative.
Watch other managers along with the rank and file to find the natural flow of the office and ask probing questions about past problems within the day-to-day operations of your workplace. You will probably uncover ways in which your colleagues were unhappy in the way that things were run and can work to fix those problems in your own way. Some of your intelligence gathering will come simply from hearing conversations in passing and watching how others interact with one another.
One behavior to avoid is turning inward and keeping to yourself. Consistent communication is the key to building relationships and learning how to make people happy. Keep your coworkers aware of team progress and updated on your own work so they feel invested in your success and begin to perceive you as an ally instead of a threat to the status quo. Stay casual and avoid defensiveness if your approach doesn’t immediately catch on; the less you challenge the response the less defensive your coworkers will become.
You may also find it helpful to include talk of your predecessor when discussing office events. For example, you could mention what he or she did particularly well that is assisting in a smooth adjustment period and can help you identify those workers that will be more easily swayed to your side. It may even spur friendly conversations reminiscing on the office of old, helping you feel more like a part of the in-crowd.
A hostile work environment can put a damper on your enthusiasm for your new job and perhaps make you second guess your decision to take the position. But acknowledging that it is in your best interest to be especially friendly, sympathetic, and understanding can help you counteract the negativity and unprofessionalism. As you move forward, focus on learning about the office culture, keep communication open, and work to build relationships with your colleagues despite their efforts to scare you off.