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3 Ways to Deal When You’re Intimidated By Your New Team Member | Fairygodboss
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3 Ways to Deal When You’re Intimidated By Your New Team Member
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Deborah Sweeney
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Not everyone is excited when new hires join the workplace. It’s actually much easier to feel more negative emotions than positive ones. Are you worried this new person will replace you in your department? Does their extensive work history make you a bit green with envy? You might be more intimidated than you realize by the new hire.

There are one of two ways you can go about managing these feelings. The first is to avoid the new employee entirely — which, spoiler alert, isn’t a sustainable plan. The second is to try to implement some internalized strategies for dealing with intimidation. Not sure what to do? I asked a few female professionals to share their insight on how to banish intimidation and welcome inclusivity with new employees.

1. Ask yourself: “what’s this about?”

From time to time Jane Scudder, founder and leadership coach at The New Exec, has clients that express concern around the presence of new people in the workplace. Scudder responds by asking her clients a simple question: "What is this about?”

Asking this question allows individuals to step back and get a bit of perspective. “The real answer might be more of concerns of being aged out, missed opportunities or feeling like you’re not performing how you want to be,” Scudder says.

Scudder also notes that asking this question may tap into something deeper that we have not yet explored within ourselves. She advises getting curious to see what comes up.

“You may be masking something else with intimidation — that you ‘want’ to do something entirely [rather than delegating]," Scudder points out.

2. Go through the SCARF checklist.

Thought leader David Rock created a checklist known as the SCARF Model that Maribel Aleman, leadership and executive coach at Aleman & Associates, refers back to in a pinch. Once you’ve asked yourself what the intimidation is really about, go through each SCARF bullet to get even more honest with yourself and your concerns.

  1. Status. Do you think you will lose your status as expert? If yes, ask yourself why that would happen. This may be the time for you to sharpen a skill or use your strengths in a new direction. You may also consider reframing your existing status and contributions to act as a mentor to new hires.
  2. Certainty. Are you hung up on the thought that someone new could replace you and you could lose your job? Ask yourself — and this may be a tough question to ask, but do it anyway — if you, or your role, has become irrelevant within the company. The next best course of action is to talk to your manager about what the company needs now and in the future. Discuss how you can help meet those needs. Be open to suggesting ideas that can increase the impact of your contributions, even if they are simple strategies!
  3. Autonomy. Previously, you did it all on your own and enjoyed that independence. Now, you’re dependent on someone else. This can be a bit of an adjustment if you’re not used to it. Try to find ways to bring the benefits from autonomy to being in a partnership. Focus on imagining a new way of working and the kinds of outcomes you want for your role and the team as a whole.
  4. Relatedness. As you warm up to the idea of creating new relationships with new employees, what happens to your relationships with existing employees? Are you afraid you will no longer be close to them? Consider what you can do to create relationships with new team members while finding ways to stay invested in established relationships. 
  5. Fairness. Sometimes intimidation isn’t about the employee’s personality, but how we observe their early treatment in the office. Did a new employee get a corner office before you? Ask yourself if this is a fight worth fighting. You may find that the frustration you’re directing at the employee isn’t actually directed to them at all. It’s about you, and how you may not want to have a tough conversation with your manager. If that turns out to be the case, ask yourself how this is fair.

3. Project less, connect more.

This tip comes from Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., a success strategist and counseling coach. Zimmerman points out that we’re all at the office and not a playgroup. The more feelings of intimidation are allowed to manifest, the more likely it is to turn off managers and surrounding colleagues. 

Don’t immediately assume that the new person is here on a mission to destroy your life. Zimmerman recommends getting to know and connecting with the new hire. She also advises that anyone feeling threatened rises above the feelings. 

“Give this person the welcome you wish you had gotten,” Zimmerman says, “At the end of the day, that’s what management will notice: who was welcoming, professional, and helped the new hire get their bearings and become an integral part of the team. They’ll also notice those individuals that were sulking, complaining, and being unhelpful. The choice is yours.” 

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