Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 17 – the jobs and careers context 16

This is my 17th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-16.)

I began to more formally discuss the new hire probationary period in Part 14 and Part 15. And as a continuation of that I began in Part 16 to explicitly discuss the single most important first day task that you can face as a new hire when just starting out: your first formal meeting with your new supervisor there.

My goal for this posting is to continue on from there in outlining and discussing how to more effectively navigate the new hire probationary period. More specifically, my goal here is to complete my background discussion of the issues and contexts that a day two on this new job would be built from, and to at least begin to address a series of issues that explicitly involve negotiating as they arise in that more ongoing context. In that, I include the issues of working more effectively with immediate same-team colleagues. But I also include in-house stakeholders there, who you would help support the work of at that business and through your own assigned efforts, where they constitute clients for you and even if you never deal in any way with outside clients or the marketplace. “Clients” has to be included in this type of a listing for most any new hire employee, and essentially regardless of their rank or title on the table of organization in place. And this fact becomes important when considering how best to communicate and negotiate here.

But before I proceed to that set of issues, I want to conclude my discussion of your first formal meeting with your new supervisor here, in order to highlight some specific points that become crucially important as you start your day-to-day work with this business, and as you proceed on from that day one to your day two and beyond as well:

• Your success at that meeting can and will hinge on you’re being able to under-promise and over-deliver from the first formal meeting with your new supervisor and boss,
• And on you’re coming to agreement with them on what would constitute your core work goals, and what would be added in as stretch goals. Managing that determination effectively can serve as an organizing framework for reaching a meaningful goals agreement at all, that will make sense as you seek to carry out all of this anticipated and expected work.
• Much of this task and goal distinguishing determination might have already been settled upon in the hiring process, when you were meeting with this manager then. But effectively fine tuning those earlier agreements here, if nothing else, can make all the difference for setting yourself up for success, or for what might have been avoidable challenges to that.

Let’s start considering the second of those two bullet points in terms of the dynamics that arise as a new hire seeks to collaboratively cooperate with their new supervisor, while that supervisor is balancing at least two separate and compelling agendas – separate agendas that can compete and even conflict with each other at times. Remember, they are answerable to others too, if nothing else.

• As a new hire who is trying to make a good impression and show how willing you are to really perform on the job, you can face internally sourced pressures if nothing else, that would lead you to agree to terms that might legitimately be more stretch goal in nature, but as part of your basic must-do goals list.
• Negotiating effectively with your new supervisor here has to begin with really listening to your own inner voice first, and with your honestly accepting your real world limitations,
• Given the scope and scale of what you would agree to do,
• The timeframe allowances you would be given to compete that work,
• The criteria that your supervisor and I add others who they are responsible to, would use when determining what acceptable success means there,
• And the availability of key resources that you might need.

I cited in Part 16, how problems can and do arise when that last resources-defined point becomes problematical from a failure to effectively address your actual needs early on, and in the first formal meeting with your supervisor if at all possible. All of the last four of those bullet points make note of comparable potential collision points. You do not, for example, want to find out after you have made commitments in this meeting that would be challenging, that some of them might not be possible at all because your own direct supervisor is under pressure from their boss and supervisor to meet results criteria and in a timeframe that just cannot be met, and certainly given the allowances agreed to for the other three of those points and how they would be agreed to. I have seen that happen and the results are never good for anyone involved, the new hire definitely included.

This addresses what would be agreed to and some basic parameters that enter into how that work would be done. And it at least acknowledges the potential complexities in what “agreed” means, at the level of what performance points and task completion points would be required and by whom – where the most senior manager or executive who becomes involved in setting acceptable performance and results standards will prevail in their view and even if you have never personally met with them. Under-promising and over-delivering is simply a way of saying that you should negotiate as effectively as possible for being allowed enough time expected and other allowances that would help you to accomplish all of your core goal responsibilities and with room to accommodate a measure of the unexpected and challenging in achieving that, and with your still staying within schedule for what you have to do. So start with a goal of being able to effectively meet all of your basic must-do goals for your probationary period on time, and one that would likely allow your being able to make significant progress on at least one of your stretch goals too, and with a personal goal of being able to present yourself as a really effectively employee who can and will go beyond the basic essentials in what you do, to bring extra value to the people you work with and to the business that you work with as a whole.

And as I have noted in this discussion thread, this is where goals and stretch goals enter this narrative, as a strategically considered point of distinction that you can use in advancing your position at that business, and in advancing your career as a whole too. I just cited the issues of stretch goals in the above paragraph, and I conclude this added note on your first day meeting with your supervisor with a brief consideration as to what is actually involved and at least potentially included in that task category too.

Goals and stretch goals are often thought of as separate lists of distinct tasks and non-overlapping lists of them at that. So A is a basic must-do goal and a completely separate and distinct B is a stretch goal. These lists can divide out that way, but the more important lines of distinction between goal and stretch goal can be in how successful completion, or completion-directed progress might be defined, and by whom for at least some of the entries on an overlapping list of basic task-oriented goals that are assigned.

Remember, managers and the businesses that they work with, go to the effort and expense of finding, hiring and onboarding new employees because they have tasks and responsibilities that have to be taken care of that they cannot cost-effectively get done with their current staff. So they take on all of the challenges that increasing headcount brings with it, that just begin with the hiring process itself and continue on from there with the learning curve period that a new hire would have to go through as they find their way around and ramp up their productivity to meet their potential – and fully meet the performance requirements of the job. For complex and far-reaching jobs that call for deep familiarity with the employing business itself and its systems, that can take a while and this can mean the hiring business taking on what effectively amounts to a significant additional new hire expense. And one consequence of this, is that the tasks and goals that a new employee would be hired for, tend to include ones that could not realistically be completed within any normally scaled new hire probationary period. Criteria for success and criteria as to what aspects or parts of the goals tasks that would be worked on during this period become crucial. Reaching at least minimally expected and required results there can be and often are set as core required goals, with achievement of specific benchmarked results beyond that set as explicit stretch goals for those tasks too.

I have briefly mentioned the possibilities of meeting with your new supervisor more informally, on or at least very soon after your first day on the job, as well as more formally in your first day scheduled orientation meeting with them. And I raise that possibility again in this context too. Meeting less formally as for example over cups of coffee, or over lunch in the office cafeteria if there is one, can give both you and your supervisor an opportunity to get to know each other a little better. This can create an environment where your supervisor might be able to speak more freely about this workplace that you have just joined, and the constraints that they work under when assigning goals and tasks and their priorities and schedules, and for both you and for others on their team.

This is where you might be able to learn more about the people who you will meet and work with and for how they work and for how they do or do not work well with others, and in ways that might affect you too. If for example, you are going to need to work with Bob or Mary and on an ongoing basis, you would probably want to know if Bob for instance is a procrastinator who might get their work done on time – finally, but who would do that at the last minute. They might not be able to effectively coordinate their work with others on a more ongoing basis and certainly not in the manner that you might initially presume when working collaboratively with others on your immediate work team. And you would want to know if Mary is the go-to person who could tell you where you can find whatever resources that you need, who could best help you if you need assistance on some work detail, and who really knows the history of the projects and tasks that you are now responsible for, that has preceded your arrival and that might be significant for how it shapes the expectations of others there: your supervisor and their supervisor included.

This can also create opportunity for fine tuning the goals and stretch goals expectations that your more formal meeting with your supervisor might have left you with, and an opportunity to clear up any ambiguities or uncertainties that you might be facing from that.

Whether and how his type of follow-up meeting occurs, depends of course on personality and interpersonal relationships issues that might be in play here; do not expect such an opportunity from a more coldly distant manager for example, thought I have seen seemingly entirely impersonal managers decide they would like to meet with a new hire this way too. There are no firm rules for this except perhaps one:

• The safest way for a new hire to approach their new supervisor for a second conversation that might take place in a less formal setting than in their office, if they choose to proactively pursue that approach themselves, is to seek out a conversation that would not have a formal agenda; the best way to do this, at least in my experience is to simply ask for advice. And then propose this second meeting: this second, informal chat, in a more relaxed manner by for example suggesting an opening for it such as: “I was thinking of getting a cup of coffee. Would you like something too? I would really appreciate an opportunity to ask you’re a few more questions that came to me after our meeting and as I got to work here.”

Then follow through on this or let it go depending on the response you get from your request. And this leads me directly to the starter list of issues that you would face and have to address as you begin working at this new job, as repeated here from the to-address note that I appended to the end of Part 16:

• Becoming a valued and appreciated member of a team, and fitting in.
• Business policy and business politics, and navigating them.
• Networking for success in the workplace.
• Negotiating access to the resources that you need, as an ongoing workplace and career requirement.
• Plan B planning and execution, and being prepared for the unexpected (and the importance of finding and addressing solutions to problems, and not assigning blame for them.)

I will just start addressing these points here with an orienting point of observation that I have essentially always found to hold true. All of the above five points and how you can and should address them will be influenced by how your colleagues there perceive you as you work with and interpersonally relate to your supervisor. If, for an extreme case example, it looks like your new boss sees you primarily as if just a work unit, they will be predisposed to deal with you differently than they would if they saw you relating with them in a more friendly and collegial manner. And they will definitely view you and act towards you differently if they see you as relating respectfully and professionally with your supervisor and with them, than they would if they thought you were “sucking up” to your new boss or to them and as being less than trustworthy as a result. The first meeting that I have been addressing in Part 16 and again here, really does lay the foundation for all that will follow. But for all of its importance, it can only serve as one building block that you might build for success from.

I am going more formally begin to discuss the above-repeated next step points in my next installment to this series as already noted. And I will delve into some relevant issues more related to corporate culture, and to interpersonal relationships in a business setting while doing so. And I fully expect to add at least a few more topics point issues to that starter list as I proceed too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And for relevant background and a systematic discussion of the new hire probationary period as a whole, as organized from day one on, see : Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

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