How to Start a New Job (Part 1)

When starting a new job, what you do first can become the backdrop for your entire career. The first step of setting yourself up for success at a new job is getting to know your boss. Get-It-Done Guy has the scoop on how to start things off well.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #249

How to Start a New Job (Part 1)

by Stever Robbins

Entering a new work environment can be very tricky, especially if you’ve been self-employed. After decades of building her secret multinational industrial empire, Queen Europa has decided to seek employment. She is joining Bernice’s new plant store, Green Growing Things, as a cashier. She wants to “see how the other half lives…if you can call it living.” Why do I not have a good feeling about this?

If you’re starting a new job, you can do a lot to set yourself up for success. A little care and deliberation will go a long way. This is part 1 of a 2-part series on how to take a job in a traditional environment, especially if you’ve been out of it for a long time.

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A new job is first and foremost about those unpredictable other people.

When you’re self-employed, you only need to worry about yourself. In an office, you have other people to think about. Unlike you, those other people are irrational and thus dangerous. A new job is first and foremost about those unpredictable other people.

Suck Up to the Boss

Offices are complete, total, (legal) dictatorships. The Dictator calls the shots. Their arbitrary decisions make or break you. The Uber Dictator shares the power, and most importantly, shares it with your boss. Your boss is the most important person in your job. Keep your boss happy or you are doomed.

When you start a job, you should schedule a one-on-one meeting with your new boss to flesh out how you’ll work together. Bernice, of course, has a bizarre sense of humor.  So when Europa asks, “How can we best work together?” Bernice answers, with an astonishing deadpan, “Guess!” Ten seconds of stunned silence later, she bursts into laughter. If this happens to you, you know your boss has a strange sense of humor. You probably want to ask someone else where to find the bathroom.

At this meeting, get to know your boss better. Ask about their past career and their proudest accomplishments. People love talking about themselves – Facebook has made billions exploiting that fact. But you’re listening at a deeper level. You want to find out what’s motivating your boss, so you know how to help your boss get what they really want.

Use the McClelland Model

In the 1960s, psychologist David McClelland developed a model for understanding motivation. Each of us is motivated by a combination of the desire for power, the desire for affiliation, and the desire for achievement. Listen carefully to your boss to find out which is your boss’s most important attribute.

Achievers Like Goals

When self-employed, Europa knows the importance of the bottom line. No money, no food. She put her attention on making the business run and getting things done. She’s an achievement person. Achievement people get a charge from reaching their goals. What motivates her to take complete economic control of the Eastern Bloc? Simple: When her recording career hit the skids, a friend said, “Well, what will you do now? Take over the world?” She said “Yes” and…well…Europa is really motivated to reach her goals.

If your boss talks about how satisfying it’s been to reach goals–either individually or as a team–that means they’re an achievement-oriented person. You want to ask how you can help reach their (and the team’s) goals, and then prepare yourself to deliver on that promise.

Achievement-oriented people like feedback on progress made towards goals. If you’re recruiting a zombie army to help your boss take over the world, make sure to give regular status updates on recruitment efforts.

Affiliators Like People

You may find that your boss talks a lot about the group. That’s affiliation. Affiliation-oriented people want to belong to the group. They want to be liked, and they thrive on teamwork and collaboration. Competition? Not so much.

If your boss is affiliation-oriented, concentrate on finding ways you can help the team work together. While you still have to get results, of course, part of your boss’s agenda is teamwork and harmony.

Bernice loves bonding with her co-workers and employees. Perhaps over some herbal tea after hours. Or in a four-hour sweat lodge retreat. Europa, however, isn’t known for teamwork. But her social success at the office depends on handing out lavender water to the dehydrated plant cashiers. Europa may love achievement, but with an affiliation-oriented boss, she needs to achieve group cohesion.

Power People Like Control

The last motivation you might encounter is power. Power-oriented bosses like to compete, win, be recognized for their achievements, and control other people. Getting their way and being admired are what they’re all about.

Some power people want power so they can organize teams to achieve goals. That can be good. Other power people just want to control others. They can wreak havoc on a business. But if they’re your boss, get on their good side, fast. This is when “Yes, boss” becomes your middle name.

When you are working with a power-oriented boss, your challenge is to help them accumulate power. If you give them answers, do it in a way where they can share in–or take all of–the glory for your ideas.

Your boss is your 800-pound gorilla whose preferred motivation style factors heavily into their unconscious goals. At your first meeting, get a sense of your boss’s preferences by listening to stories from the past, and discussions of what your boss wants for your group in the future. Now that the 800-pound gorilla is dealt with, in Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss how to deal with the rest of the 100-pound gorillas who inhabit your new workplace.

This is Stever Robbins. 

I’m an executive coach who helps top executives find strategies to boost profits and revenues. This January, join me for a webinar to learn from your past year and plan for your next year to be awesome. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com/newyears.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Meeting with the Boss image from Shutterstock

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.