Being a new employee can be a very awkward time, and not just for the hire.
Getting to know a new team member is challenging enough without management or HR resorting to ill-conceived “games” and “exercises” that are meant to foster a familial bond early on. Forcing people to divulge personal details isn’t the way to make friends, and placing them on stage puts them on the spot and embarrasses them.
If you want a smoother way of introducing new team members, we’ve got a few ideas for you to try:
Before They Show Up
Give your team early warning so that nobody’s surprised to see a stranger on Monday morning. You can circulate an email or (even better), tell your team verbally, so that you can answer any questions the team may have about the new guy and his experience.
You can also use this chance to warn the team of any sensitive topics. I was once in a meeting with a new guy and wasn’t told he had Tourette syndrome. He suffered a seizure during the meeting and panicked everyone in the room. Not the most auspicious start.
A Quick Walk Around
Walk-around introductions are a great alternative to in-meeting or on-stage introductions. Introductions are handled one on one, giving both parties a quick chance to get a feel for each other, while being short enough that you can make a quick exit if things start getting awkward. Also, the new hire will be able to familiarize himself with the office layout so he can move around himself later on.
Give Him a Running Start
Teams want to know that the new guy is someone they can rely on, and the best way of doing that is by involving him in the project as soon as possible. Bring the new hire in to meetings and, if you’re talking to someone about something significant to the new team member, call him over and let him participate. Give him the chance to ask his own questions to other team members so that the team can see he’s willing to get his feet wet.
Take the Team Out
Sometimes changing the setting is enough to break the ice. Take your team out for lunch—or for drinks after work, whichever fits your team culture better. The important thing to remember here is that you’re not forcing people to socialize. It should happen naturally, and placing them on the spot is going to lead to awkwardness in the workplace. If the new team member has odd eating or drinking habits, let them be. Everyone’s strange in their own way.
Give the New Team Member a Cheat Sheet
Nobody can remember a dozen names rattled off in quick succession, much less the job titles and roles that accompany them. Give your new hire a break and provide him with a quick cheat sheet of names and roles. This can take the form of a company org chart or, if you’re up to it, a seating plan with names and photos.
So the next time you get a new hire, don’t embarrass him—and everyone else—by doing silly games or spouting random personal details. Ease him into the team the right way: by keeping introductions smooth, useful, and natural.
Image credit, Flickr, Nutmeg Designs