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starting new jobStarting a new job also means starting in a new workplace – which is SO much bigger than just your roles/responsibilities.

I’m talking about office politics. Relationships. Culture.

Whenever you implement a skill set that interacts with other professionals in some way, shape or form, there are expectations – on the part of the hiring manager and coworkers – that come with the job that simply aren’t spoken of during a job interview.

So, when starting a new job, how can you uncover its hidden rules of engagement?

Here are my 4 Rules:

Rule 1. Look for the Alpha in the pack, and learn the pecking order.
It won’t take long to discover whose behavior or voice becomes dominant in workplace conversations/meetings. Pay attention when you hear something like, “When it comes to budgets, Mr. Green will want you to deliver information this way…” or “By the way, don’t get Diane on your bad side – and beware, she has her three subordinates taking note of what you say…” It’s one thing to understand the organizational chart. It’s another to see how everyone plays together – and how you can play well with everyone.

Rule 2. Find out what behaviors get rewarded – a.k.a. “Office Politics.”
Managers who believe their department doesn’t have politics are clueless to the dynamics within their organization. If you want to become a star performer, you have to fully understand what behaviors your manager will reward. Your manager could be the type who doesn’t care if you have to postpone YOUR deadline as long as you help get THEIR big report looking great. Or they may be the kind of manager who doesn’t want your help, and is only concerned with you getting your own work done on time. Find out your manager’s system, and humble yourself enough to follow their lead!

Rule 3: Learn their processes first.
When you start a new job, it’s easy to identify which of your new employer’s processes are working and which ones need help. But while it’s tempting to raise your hand and “help” your new coworkers with a little fresh perspective, trust me, keep it to yourself. There is a saying that holds a lot of truth: “Earn the right to be heard.” If you start with an open mind and follow their processes first without trying to change things right away, you will build up enough experience and trust that people around you will listen to your proposed change.

Rule 4:  Find a go-to coworker.
It may sound silly, but knowing where the restrooms are, where people go for lunch, and what standard templates people use are the essential kinds of workplace knowledge they DON’T tell you in the interview. Look for a friendly face – maybe someone who introduced themself to you on your first day. Don’t be afraid to ask questions so you can engrain yourself in the established workplace culture immediately.

Don’t ever forget that having the knowledge to do the job is really only half of what’s needed to actually DO the job successfully. Will you rise to the challenge to implement the hidden rules of engagement?