It just so happens that I recently changed jobs. I went from a minor management position to the position I used to manage, and at a different company. Good job. Good company. But I still get shaky knees each morning on my way to work.
‘Cause I’m the New Girl, that’s why.
Five Reasons Why It Sucks To Be The New Girl
1) You’re Scared To Make A Mistake
Especially when you’re coming from a position where you managed what you’re now doing. You can’t catch everything, and you will screw up, and when you do, it’s gonna sting. Rookie mistake, right? And it’s the little, day to day errors that will trip you up. Using the wrong ink colour on a report, or putting your work in the wrong file. Forgetting someone’s name, or opening the wrong door and interrupting a meeting. There will be others judging you and watching you, even if you’re only sixteen and it’s your first job as the fry girl at McDonald’s. It’s nerve-wracking, and it’s the primary reason why new people need your understanding. Only make fun of us when we can’t hear you.
2) You Don’t Know The Staff Dynamics
Are you accidentally pal-ing up to the staff gossip? Getting on the bad side of Superbitch? Kissing ass to the totally wrong supervisor? It can take months to figure out the minute details of the human behavioural patterns in your workplace, particularly if the people you now work with have been together as a group for quite some time (read: clique-y). And once you realize that you’ve made some kind of social error, it can take a long time to fix it. Establishing relationships with your co-workers isn’t easy; you need to put in effort and, frighteningly, put yourself out there (see Reason #1). Us new people won’t get it correct right out of the gate, so give us some time to warm up to everybody and see where we fit in. And for God’s sake — let us fit in!
3) You Don’t Know Where the Bathroom Is
For the first week I was at my new job (which was just last week), I had no idea there was a bathroom on our floor. No one had told me. No one had given me a tour. I was going up two flights of stairs to pee. You can imagine how red my face was when I asked another staff member what was behind the door everybody was using only to be shown that it was a coat room with lockers (which I also did not know about) — and two bathrooms. Feck. If you see The New Girl, ask her if she’s had a tour, and offer to take her around if the answer is no. If you are The New Girl, ask someone if there is a bathroom on your floor, and ask where the closest one is if the answer is no. The moral of the story here is to not be so shy and afraid to ask routine questions that you end up looking ridiculous.
4) You Wear The Wrong Thing On The Wrong Day
Tomorrow is Jeans Day where I work. If you pay $5 to a certain charity, you get to wear jeans to work, provided you wear a corporate attire shirt specially chosen by the company to go with. I was given a shirt today, which I promptly forgot in the aforementioned coat room. I could wear regular work attire tomorrow, but will I be a poorly clothed outcast? Standing out like a sore thumb? Oh, decisions, decisions. It might sound frivolous, but it’s not. Again, it’s about fitting in and making sure that you are accepted. One place I worked had a corporate attire program, complete with schedule of what items could be worn on which days of the week. Failure to adhere to the schedule — inadvertently or no — meant you didn’t look like anybody else you worked with that day, and prompted a lot of teasing. It can be mortifying. Don’t point and laugh at me tomorrow in my dress pants, or don’t judge me if I show up in a t-shirt and duck away to change.
5) You’re Scared You’ll Screw Up And Get Fired (Like, WORSE than Reason #1)
Now, this is probably everybody’s biggest professional fear, but it plagues me for one reason: I know someone I now work with was “encouraged” to find new employment when we worked together several years ago because they had made a very serious professional faux-pas. I can’t look at this person without thinking, “Man, I know what you did, you dirty –“, well, you get the picture. That incident happened ten years ago, and I still remember it. Making mistakes is a part of life, but making one so bad that everybody knows about it (and remembers it ten years later) is crippling. My new job is very public, and making a mistake means that many people will find out about it. I feel extra pressure because I am expected, and rightfully so, to know this job inside-out, and yet I will still make errors. I’m afraid I’ll be humiliated. Fired. That will lessen with time, but right now, it’s very raw.
So be nice to The New Girl. Especially if she’s a red-head in her late thirties who looks a bit lost and asks if you can point her in the direction of the bathroom.