Joining a new workplace brings with it a mixed bag of emotions. There is excitement to start something new, then there is the trepidation– how will the new colleagues be, what will the work culture be like, what kind of person is your boss, so on and so forth. In fact, many times, the first 10 days on a new job are crucial to your decision to stick around or leave.
As someone who has quit within a week of joining a new workplace (not proud about it), I can tell you this confidently– no matter how high the salary, or amazing the position, it finally boils down to the work you have to do and the people you have to do it with. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work. So not having a great team is a big downer, which affects you in both professional and personal ways.
This is also why it is important to break the ice with your colleagues correctly and make as many new friends as possible. Believe it or not, the work is going to get more difficult with every passing day and when that happens, you need a bunch of happy people around to make it a little more bearable. I am now sharing a list of tricks that have helped me break the ice and make some heartening conversations at a new workplace.
First impressions are important when you are surrounded by new people. Smiling will make you look like a warm, approachable person. So my go-to advice is to maintain a happy, smiling countenance. This really works, as the person opposite you will also reciprocate with a smile, and the next time you could strike up a conversation with ease.
When I started working, around 8 years ago, I was a timid, shy girl scared of approaching anyone. All I would do is smile. If I made a mistake I would have an apologetic smile and if someone asked me something that I didn’t know, I would have a sheepish smile. This wasn’t exactly the best reaction, but it did help me forge some amazing friendships that are still close to my heart.
Win them over with food
Food is the universal language of love. Every person speaks it; be it a Gujarati, a Marwari, or a Punjabi. Sharing food brings people closer and is a great way to make some heart-to-heart conversations. It gets even better if the food is home-cooked and absolutely delicious.
I would take home-cooked food to work and share it with my colleagues. At one of my jobs at a magazine, that got my mother a regular recipe column and lots and lots of love from all my colleagues. But more than that, it helped me connect with a lot of people over lunch, even though I am not much of a conversationalist.
Spend time in the common area
Every office has a cafeteria, common room or pantry, that’s often frequented by the who’s who of the organisation. You may not be a chai/coffee addict or a serial smoker, but it is a good idea to accompany your colleagues to these common areas once in a while, just to become a part of the informal work culture and get to know new people. I would often accompany colleagues to the pantry for a cup of coffee or hot water, just to take a few minutes off and make conversation. This activity often helped me learn a lot of new things about the organisation, that I would never know if I was stuck to my computer. This really helps break the ice at your new workplace.
Look up from your phone
Our cell phones have become an important part of our lives, but it’s a good idea to look up from your phone once in a while and make real conversations. Speaking to real people is so much more effective in making connections, than sending them messages on WhatsApp. In fact, a lot of people fiddle with their phone just to avoid other people, but that’s the wrong approach and will not help.
I have a resolution not to look at my screen when I am eating lunch, or in the pantry. It’s a good way to give your eyes a break from the screen and maybe just observe people and things around. I’ve often noticed that when I am not glued to my phone, people often approach me to exchange pleasantries.
Be a part of team activities
When you are part of a large team, it’s imperative that you try your best to get to know the people. This is not possible if you just do your work and leave. What you need to do is become a part of the team in the true sense. This will happen when you make conversations, be part of brainstorming sessions, proactively give ideas and offer to help even if it is not a part of your job. Your team might be a little averse to this initially and might also think you are being over-friendly, but once the ice is broken, they’ll know you better and that’s what we want isn’t it?
Once, very early on in one of my jobs, my team was given a major responsibility that required them to stay in the office all night. They didn’t ask me to stay with them, as I was new and had not worked on that project at all. However, I offered to wait back with them, even if just to help out. They insisted I don’t, but I made sure I came early the next day (7 am) to help them out in whatever way possible. They were delighted to see me and of course extremely appreciative of my gesture.