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7 common traps for new hires

by Neville Knowles
in Human Resources

It’s relatively easy for a newcomer to join an organization and learn the reporting relationships; the budgeting processes … all the structural things. It’s not as easy to go in and learn the organizational culture, such as how to communicate and work effectively with a new boss, peers, direct reports, and other stakeholders.

First impressions are important! Early successes or wins are vital as they serve to accelerate transitional assimilation and consequential productivity sooner.

Seven Common Traps to Avoid

With this in mind, it’s helpful to think about potential pitfalls for new hires – and the strategies to avoid them. Here are seven of the most common traps experienced by new hires in the workplace:

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1. Sticking with what you know

What worked for you in your previous role might not serve you or others in your new role given cultural differences or expectation differences. You may need to embrace new competencies.

2. Jack rabbit starts

You feel you need to take action and you try too hard, too early to put your own stamp on the organization. You are too busy to learn and understand, resulting in bad early decisions that catalyze early resistance to your leadership.

3. Setting unrealistic expectations

You fail to negotiate a clear mandate with established objectives and timelines of delivery to suit the upstream leader and/or stakeholders. What do they expect in the first 60 to 90 days, six months, and first year? What does the new hire expect in the way of access, work style, and authority?

4. Attempting to do too much too early

You rush off in all directions, launching multiple initiatives in the hope that some will pay off. People become confused, and no critical mass of resources gets focused on key initiatives.

5. Coming in with “the” answer

You come in with your mind made up, or you reach conclusions too quickly about “the” problems and the solutions. You alienate people who could help you understand what’s going on, and you squander opportunities to develop support for good solutions.

6. Misdirected learning

You spend too much time and focus on the technical part of the job, and not enough on the cultural and political dimensions of the new role.

7. Neglecting horizontal relationships

You spend too much time and focus on vertical relationships, and not enough with peers and other stakeholders. You miss what it will take to succeed – and you miss early opportunities to build supportive alliances.

First Impressions and Navigating Workplace Culture

Opinions on new hires’ effectiveness begin to form surprisingly quickly, and once formed, they’re very hard to change. If successful in building credibility and securing early wins, the momentum will likely propel the new hire through the balance of their tenure within the position. Conversely, should the new hire dig themselves into a hole early, they may face an uphill battle from that point forward.  MW

A version of this article was published in Municipal World, January 2014

Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the full version of this article or in Anita Sampson Binder’s article: Top 10 strategies for employee attraction & retention. Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.


Neville Knowles is the founder of the Knowles Leadership Group of London, Ontario and an organizational development specialist. He provides executive leadership coaching, team development facilitation, leadership development workshops, and facilitates transformative sustainable change.

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