Entering an organisation can be challenging. You are learning their ways, building relationships, whilst also trying to connect your skills with the new role.
There is often a settling-in period, where you are learning the ropes, being on-boarded, and meeting the extended team.
Whilst you may bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with you, many people experience a dip in their self-confidence, as they navigate the many unknowns of their new role.
There are a few things that leaders and the people within the organisation can do to ensure a smooth transition for new team members. Timothy R. Clark’s research in the Four Levels of Psychological Safety is a great framework that can be used to support this.
- Inclusion Safety
This includes being accepted into the team. This means the team opens itself and invites the person to cross the threshold. Inclusion is automatic.
Unless harm towards others is shown, the person is not excluded.
Despite saying this, there are some who will judge the new team member, expect them to prove their worth, or hold back from interacting or sharing resources until they have “sussed them out”. This is often due to their own insecurities, ego or trust issues.
Inclusion doesn’t mean that you need to be someone’s best buddy. It means you need to give your fellow human the opportunity to cross the threshold, enter the team and begin to build connections and learn about the mahi.
- Learner Safety
Being safe to engage in learning the ropes, asking questions and making mistakes is part of learner safety.
No one can be expected to know everything all at once, especially someone new to an organisation. Learners who feel safe will often operate at the outer edge of their expertise to fully embrace more complex tasks.
On the contrary, when they are chastised, growled or excluded for making an error, this can cause the person to withdraw, take fewer risks and actually make more mistakes, often simple ones, due to their fear of making one.
- Contributor Safety
Once the new team member feels like they belong, are able to acknowledge what they don’t yet know and learn from their mistakes, and have also demonstrated they can be fully active team members, they then become ready to contribute.
Contributor Safety is underpinned by the support of the team, who recognises the newcomer’s skills and is open to seeking or listening to their offerings. Just as the new team member invests skill and effort, the team offers support and guidance.
This can sometimes go awry on two levels. When the new team member goes straight into contributor level, without having built relational rapport, or learner safety. This can sometimes come across as a “know-it-all”, or disrespectful towards the whakapapa of the organisational journey to date. Alternatively, the other team members or leader, denies contributor safety due to their own need to maintain the status quo, their ego, or a need to maintain control.
- Challenger Safety
This level of safety allows team members to challenge the status quo. If a team member has the trust of others through solid relationships, shows their vulnerability to learn, and actively contributes to the organisation (not their own self-promotion), there is a solid foundation for challenging conversations.
They are able to respectfully, based on their knowledge of the organisation and its future, table ideas and alternatives in a manner that shows their genuine passion for everyone’s success. In order for challenges to be tabled and received, guidelines for how this is done need to be clear. If a person is challenging in a way that is a personal attack or challenges a person’s mana, then having clear guidelines around this helps ensure people are in a safe space to be able to challenge without it getting personal.
So if you are someone new to an organisation, where are you sitting: Inclusion, Learner, Safety or Challenger Safety? What’s worked well to date? What would you tweak?
If you are a leader, how are you supporting your new team member to move through the safety levels to become a fully accepted and contributing part of your team?