Beware the Lemmings

Beware the Lemmings

The lemming is a small rodent that mostly lives in the Arctic. Folklore has it that lemmings follow each other even when it results in their jumping off cliffs in what some describe as mass suicides.

The lemming analogy is a cautionary tale for a “group think” mentality and can be applied to several situations in the workplace. New employees are more susceptible to becoming lemmings than others who are better informed.

Frequently, an established worker volunteers to help the new person get settled. This dynamic can be useful — or not. They can show you where to find things, introduce you to others, and offer to become your lunch companion. This phenomenon might be similar to first meeting your roommate in college. Because of proximity, and because you didn’t know many people, you became friends of convenience. As you met more people, your dependence on your roommate may have declined as you realized you didn’t have as much in common as you thought.

It is important to take your time forming friendships or habits in the workplace. During your first few weeks, try to meet and get to know as many people as you can. It is fine to have lunch with someone or with a group, but keep in mind that it may be difficult to extricate yourself from the group later on if you are not compatible or you don’t share many common interests.

There is always an interest in the new girl. Others may fish for information or ask you directly about your salary or benefits, whether you have a partner, or what you think of the boss.  Limiting self-disclosure in the workplace is generally advised, but it is even more important when you first begin employment as you may unwittingly become a pawn in office politics.

Also be cautious about participating in gossip or accepting someone else’s assessment of other employees or your boss. Reserve judgment until you can form your own opinions.

Finally, take time to review operational policies and adhere to them despite encouragement by others to bend the rules. If you have an hour for lunch, be back at your desk in an hour even if your colleagues always take 90 minutes. Don’t lend someone your security card or show them a memo from your supervisor. A simple statement such as, “I’m sorry but I’m not comfortable doing that,” should suffice as an explanation.

It will take some time, but you will become comfortable in your new organization. If you focus on being conscientious and on doing the best job you can, the other issues should fall into place without you falling over the cliff.

This is an excerpt from 100 Ways to Start Smart and Stay Ahead in Your Career. 

Photo Credit: Shibuipuntoit

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