Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Workplace Socialization Insights from a Local Animal Shelter

Workplace Socialization Insights
from a Local Animal Shelter

Alignment solution: How you socialize new employees and team members helps set the stage for their subsequent success.

Recently I adopted a nine-month old cat from a local animal shelter. He’d had a rough start in life, which made him very distrustful of people and fearful of new surroundings. As I was getting ready to take him home, one of the dedicated shelter volunteers offered this advice: “Everything will be new to him. He doesn’t know you, or where things are, or who he can trust. He doesn’t know yet that he shouldn’t chew on electrical cords. Be very patient with him. Let him settle in at his own pace. Create a safe space for him as he gets to know his new surroundings and family. Soon the things that are new now will become as ordinary to him as they are to you.”

This advice is just as sound for people as it is for pets. When you have new employees – whether they’re starting their first job or have years of experience – they are entering unfamiliar terrain. They are anxious to learn the ropes and fit in so they can contribute. It’s the leader’s job to socialize these folks to the workplace – i.e., teach them how things are done here. The more supportive you and other employees are, the faster the new people will be able to integrate themselves into the team and be productive. Here are four ways to help accelerate the socialization process and make it as smooth as possible:

  1. Remember that all or many aspects of the new assignment (e.g., location, equipment, people, traditions, norms) are unfamiliar. Try to see the situation from the new person’s perspective, and fill in the blanks pro-actively.
  1. To the extent possible, let new employees set their own pace in settling in. Make it clear that there is no such thing as a “stupid” question. Make yourself available for consultation. Provide constructive feedback. Most people will do just fine. Those who inadvertently step on toes by acting prematurely, or those who seem slow in finding their way, can be guided to a more effective path quickly.
  1. Don’t change who you (or your team) are. Do let the new folks know how your team operates, what your performance expectations are, how you both will know when they meet or exceed them, and what resources are available to enable their individual and collective success. Welcome their suggestions, and let them know you are open to ideas for improvement.
  1. Recognize in advance that there are likely to be some rough patches during the socialization process. Remain patient and encouraging as you all work through them. Don’t give up prematurely when you run into a particularly sticky or stubborn problem. Remember that each person was hired for a particular reason, and do your best to help everyone weather the storm in good shape.

The way that you bring people into a new organization or team sets the stage for their subsequent success or failure. The socialization process plays a huge role in employees’ decisions about whether and how long to stay with the organization. By taking the newcomers’ perspectives, communicating reasonable expectations and providing the support needed to meet or exceed them, and being prepared for possible stormy weather, you can accelerate the socialization process and greatly influence their experience on the new job. You’ve already invested in these individuals. Why not protect that investment by setting them up for success?

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at and my blog at

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© 2016 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

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