Six tips to successfully join a team

Six tips to successfully join a team

We’ve all been there: poised to join a group of people who’ve been working together for a long time. And whether you’re the newest addition to a company or you’ve just been added to an existing interdepartmental team, being the new kid on the block isn’t always easy.

Over time, every team develops its own culture, with spoken and unspoken agreements as to how things are done and often what the hierarchy is of the group. As the newcomer, you need to know how to integrate into the team without causing any disruption. If you succeed, you’ll be able to add value to the team and most likely have a constructive, even exciting professional experience. If, on the other hand, you face difficulties integrating, you could find yourself isolated, in the middle of conflict, or even struggling to do your job. The following six tips will help you successfully join a team.

1. Be yourself. Many of us feel insecure when joining a new group, and that can make us try to present ourselves the way we think people want us to be. However, this isn’t the best way to go about building strong relationships. It costs a lot of energy to pretend to be different than you really are—plus, you’ll have to keep wearing a mask in order to not disappoint. In addition, most people can sense when you’re not being authentic, and they’ll avoid you or feel you’re not trustworthy. So relax and remember: you’re fine just the way you are.

2. Find out who the key players are. Whether the team has hierarchical structure or not, there are usually one or two members of the group who lead, coordinate, or keep the group together. Observe interactions and team dynamics and before long, you’ll see who has the most influence—and by extension, you’ll know whose support you need.
3. Get to know your team members. It’s always good to show an interest in others beyond work. According to Christine M. Riordan in the Harvard Business Review article “We All Need Friends at Work,” establishing friendships with your colleagues can make you happier and more engaged. Socialize with other team members during breaks, and join them for drinks or dinner after work. Just make sure to respect people’s boundaries, and always behave professionally.
4. Observe processes and assimilate them into your own toolbox. The Monster article “How do I integrate myself into a new team?” points out that it’s never a good idea to criticize a process. First of all, if somebody from the team created it, you could antagonize him or her. And second, you don’t know yet why certain things are done a particular way. Find out what the reason is for doing things just so and assimilate established processes into your own habits.
5. Be confident yet reserved. In her Levo League article “5 Tips for Integrating Yourself into an Organization from an HR Expert,” Ashaki Rucker cautions against focusing too much on showcasing your strengths. You’ve been added to the team for a reason, which means that your coworkers are probably aware of your talents and skills. Even if they aren’t, it’s advisable to be reserved and let the group dynamic lead developments. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t contribute; just make sure that your contributions are delivered in a respectful manner that doesn’t challenge any other group members.
6. Deliver on your promises. Always make sure that if you promise something, you can deliver on it. For example, don’t (in your enthusiasm to make a good impression) agree to finish a 20-page report in a day. Give yourself ample time to do a good job: ultimately, the quality of your work is more likely to make a positive impact than the speed at which you finish it. At the same time, if you need assistance or guidance from someone on the team, just ask. In most cases, your colleagues will be more than happy to help you—and collaborating closely can help strengthen your relationships.

Keep these six tips in mind, and before you know it, you’ll be a valued member of the team. And remember: next time somebody new joins your team, extend a helping hand to make him or her feel welcome. Because the better your team can work together, the more productive it will be. And that benefits everyone involved.