As published on www.forwardmetrics.com.
Starting a new job can be one of the most exciting times in your life.
It’s kind of like traveling. Just as each country has it’s own culture, each company has it’s own “culture” as well. If you are open to it, there are so many new things to experience and learn about people, processes and most importantly, about yourself.
When starting with your new organization, in order to get the most out of your experience, there is one important thing to avoid. It’s the what I like to call, the Where I Used to Work Syndrome.
Indications: In my experience, this syndrome typically lasts for the first 3-months of any new job. Daily, anywhere from one to six discussions with the new employee begin with, “well, at my old company, we used to do it this way…” This usually leaves their new colleagues wondering why they ever left their old job in the first place.
We can’t be mad. Chances are, we have all had a least a minor case at one point in our lives. And unfortunately, I am no exception.
If you haven’t been reading this blog, last year I returned home from an assignment in New Delhi, India, and sadly enough, during my time there, I came down with one of the worse cases of this syndrome I have ever seen.
Here’s my story.
I was part of a start-up team in a developing country in a new industry. We landed in India and our team of two, literally started from scratch. First of all, we had to find an office. To give you an idea, offices in India typically don’t have carpet, furniture, air-conditioning or even finished walls in some cases. You have to add those things yourself. Just frustration #1 of 10,000. Long story short, we put our team together, and after three months, successfully launched as planned. But not without frustration that resulted in me telling everyone I came in contact with, “at my old company we used to …”
Everything, I mean everything, is done differently, and everything takes anywhere from 10x-100x longer than in the U.S. What used to take five minutes, was now taking, in some cases, two-days (this is not an exaggeration). Not to mention the extra time wasted complaining about how long things take. I spent so much time thinking, why can’t everyone just do it differently. Our way in the U.S. works so well and efficiently And yes, not only did I refer back to my old way of doing things at my job, you would also often hear me utter these even more annoying words, “In the U.S. we used to do it this way…”
Even though I made such a conscious effort to be open and not biased to “my way” of doing things, deep down I totally was. And being that way was keeping me from being as happy and productive as I could potentially be both at work and in my everyday life. It was almost like I reverted back to being 6-years old when I used to want all my friends to play the games that I wanted to play, the way that I wanted, and the frustration I felt when they didn’t. Crying, stomping my feet and saying … “O.k. Fine then I’m not playing”. – Everyone’s response, “Fine then. Don’t.” As open as I was to this new experience and new job, there was a huge piece inside me that was fighting this re-learning process. Why not just build the offices with carpets? Why do I have to fill-out 10 pages to ship something to the next town. In the U.S. I just have to fill-out one.
I basically become that 6-year old again: Feet stomping … “I am just going to go back to my old job in the U.S. where we only have to fill-out one page to ship something.“ – Everyone’s response, “Fine then. Go.”
See how that works? Not so productive.
As you can probably guess, one of the biggest lessons that I learned while living in India was that being so attached to “my way” of doing things was not having positive results. Although, I had good intentions for change and efficiency, nothing was changing (especially not me).
The most successful day I had came about 3-months into my almost year and a half stay. I realized that once I took the time to learn, respect and adapt the way things were done, it was then I could be most productive (and happy). I also learned that it put me in a position where I could actually implement change, not by forcing my way, but by moving forward towards change with an understanding and acceptance of how things were and moving forward from there. And guess what, a miracle happened. People started listening to me, and things started changing for the better (including me). And I actually started learning from everyone around me and it became one of the most incredible life-changing experiences of my life. Funny how that works.
So the next time you start a new job and those inevitably words start to come out of your mouth “Well, at my old company …”, instead of saying that, learn the new way of doing things, accept it, and then move forward from there. At this point you can even start suggesting ideas that may have worked for you in the past.
Most importantly, just like you make the decision to experience new things when you travel, when you start a new job, you made the decision to make a change. Enjoy where you are and the whole new range of potential that comes with it. Not only is there potential for you to make great changes with your new organization, you may even learn an even better way of doing things yourself. One catch, you have to stop talking about how things used to be.