New and Unwelcome

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about identity:

I was hired as a Receptionist/Operations Assistant. The first day my coworker says, “I don’t know why you are here”. And “I’m going to be the Receptionist because I need to get paid more,” etc.

I just looked at her and made an inquiry to the Administrator – what is my position going to be? I was told with my background and experience that I could assist her and help the small staff in office, until they hire more people. 

I have been given Supervisory access and have been working with the Manager and cleaning up Compliance issues. The coworker is assisting people and acting like she is the Office Manager. When I address the Manager about an issue, she interrupts and gives her opinion. Her attitude towards me is in a dismissal tone- even though I am a seasoned experience Sr. Associate in the financial industry. How do I address this to Management- I have observed things that are not compliant to our company rules.

Signed, New and Not Welcome

Dear New and Not Welcome:

When you walk into a party to which you were invited in which a group is conversing, you feel uncomfortable, especially when no one shifts so there is an opening and helps you join the conversation. As a new hire, I’m sure you felt like that when a coworker confronted you with, “I don’t know why you are here” and asserted that she was the Receptionist “because I need to be paid more.” Your coworker’s hostile display was rude, but signaled that the Administrator or whoever hired you had failed to prepare the staff for you. In short she had invited you to enter with little or no introduction or psychic buy-in for your presence.

Now in light of the rude reception, it’s partly up to you to help her understand that you need a proper introduction in order to smooth the hard edges you have encountered. You began that by asking the Administrator -”what is my position going to be?”

I have read and re-read the description you provide, but I’m unclear about how many individuals are in your workgroup and about

  1. What is the expected role of the woman who asserted she would be receptionist,
  2. What role the Administrator wants for you “with my background and experience that I could assist her and help the small staff in office, until they hire more people”, and
  3. Who is the manager, you say interrupted you and displays her “attitude towards me is in a dismissal tone.”

The administrator assumed you were and would be working with adults–adults flexible enough to see what needs to be done and who could adjust roles. Most employees in the U.S. culture appreciate being able to shape their own roles. However, apparently the loose almost non-existent structure within your small workplace has created chaos–resulting in not knowing who does what and allowing incivility. So is it not past time to call a workgroup-wide meeting to spell out roles/rule–to get them in writing and posted? And to have weekly meetings to review and evaluate how well those role/rules are working?  In short, your Administrator needs to call you all together to talk about talk–straight and engaging talk that generates buy-in to make your small workplace profitable and one in which 100% of you feel good about coming to work. Your Administrator or whoever’s in the top position can put in writing role descriptions; however, to get group-wide commitment what she proposes should entail input from all involved or she might invite you all, however many of you there are who interact, to spell out your role/rules. Your most persuasive premise is how to make your work group function smoothly and efficiently so that it is profitable.  

You walked into hostility and chaos. You will soon walk out unless your work group as a unit will determine role descriptions and agree on do and don’t communication rules, such as who makes assignments, who corrects/approves of tasks completed, and how what is unclear, causing annoyance and frustration is civilly resolved. The sport metaphor applies here–skull sessions to designate what is the game strategy and who calls plays–and practice, practice, practice until the plays go smoothly. A team then learn to call huddles to quickly clarify what is needed. And it is expected that after a game, everyone talks about what didn’t go as well as practiced and what needs rethinking and change.

You might think of your situation as being assigned an unclear title–an identity that neither you nor others in your work group are sure of. Now you, in light of your interaction, are shaping that identity–hopefully one that enables you to influence what happens. Specifically from what you mention, for you that entails helping resolve problems of compliance with company financial rules  Shaping your identity is best understood as a process of identification with you work group and with its purpose and values. When and if you help shape up this small company, I predict your identity will expand and identification with it will grow.

The process for you might be seen sequentially–position >proficiency >performance >purpose >projects >persistence >progress >passion >profit >prognosis >potential. Talk about talk –team talk makes the process work.

Do the ideas I send from a distance provide a conceptual and practical framework that makes sense for your situation? Or possibly do they spark ideas that you can apply because you are close to what is happening day to day? Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOs.  It will be good to learn how things happen for you as the weeks go by. –William Gorden

Follow Up:

You guided me to great suggestions .I  have reached out to Administer and clarification,has been made. I will embrace everything you have taken and take action.  I have discovered the co worker is threatened by my experience and knowledge.  I will handle with professionalism.   Thank you!