Shadowing can be an awkward experience for everyone involved. On the one hand, the fresh face starting a new job is usually hungry and motivated to rise to the top. They aren’t inundated with the standard processes of the company that their mentor is used to, so they quite literally see everything with fresh eyes and raise questions the office may have never considered. On the other hand, an employee with seniority knows the little nuances of the job and can see past corners because of this experience.
These two forces need to have the right information to learn to draw strengths from each other and partner with each other. But in today's workforce, we're often given instructions on how to lead, not how to follow. Here are the 3 unspoken rules for shadowing so it's not a tough experience for everyone.
1. Be a team player.
Dr. Lois P. Frankel, a psychologist and author of the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office says that a new employee’s top priority should be establishing themselves as a team player rather than proving yourself with new ideas and innovation within the first 50-90 days. So when you feel that competition urge kicking in, try to remember that you are laying the groundwork for success by honoring the rules of your workplace. Respect the opinions and instructions of the person you're shadowing, rather than raising issues with their processes.
2. Ask a lot of questions.
Some people might feel that asking too many questions can seem annoying to the co-worker they're shadowing. However, all too often, employees don’t truly understand the purpose of a project and what impact their work has for the company. The “why" questions that deepen the understanding of a project are often left out. You can help your team succeed and become established simply by learning the "why" behind each process. Plus, you will show the person that you're shadowing that you are interested in the job. If someone gives you a hard time for asking questions, then do a quick check to ensure you are injecting balance into the situation. Balance asking questions and drawing conclusions from careful observation. If someone still gives you a hard time, then it’s quite possible they might not have your best intentions at heart. Speak with them privately about how their behavior makes you feel, and try to co-exist as best as possible.
3. Learn the subtleties of successful employees in your environment.
Paying attention to the subtleties of an environment ahead of coming up with your own solutions for dealing with it is important. When you’re first starting out, you may see frays in processes and wonder why they aren’t done differently. But a company’s environment holds nuances and little subtleties that hold a lot of weight and information. For example, you may wonder why when inputting a new client account in the company’s main CRM software, Samantha always follows a lengthy workaround instead of just pressing "activate." You may think you can do it better. Well, if you knew the nuances well you would know that by pressing “activate” on that client account would cause the system to shut down. Nuances are important to learn.
Gabriella DiDio is tired of the struggles of getting ahead in her career so, instead of revolting, she created Taupe Shoes — an empowering website for women that can help you become stronger through your work dilemmas. You can follow Gabriella on Twitter.