Take Control of Your Onboarding
How are women who started a job remotely during the pandemic faring? Have they been receiving the support and making the connections necessary to succeed in their role? What lessons can they pass on to other women who are about to join an entirely remote or hybrid organization?
We highlight findings from our survey of new hires. Then, Emily speaks with management professor Beth Schinoff and HR executive Amelia Ransom about their own experiences starting new jobs — the challenges they faced and how they worked to overcome them. They also share advice on how to approach onboarding, whether you’re starting a new position yourself or supporting a new member of your team.
Beth Schinoff is a management professor at Boston College.
Amelia Ransom is the vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the software company Smartsheet.
- “How Remote Workers Make Work Friends,” by Beth Schinoff et al.
- “Starting a New Job? Take Control of Your Onboarding,” by Susan Peppercorn
- “How to Set Up a Remote Employee for Success on Day One,” by Darleen DeRosa
- “How to Re-Onboard Employees Who Started Remotely,” by Rebecca Zucker
- “How to Succeed Quickly in a New Role,” by Rob Cross et al.
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A complete transcript of this episode will be available November 22.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Every person who joins our company receives a copy of Michael Watkins’s book The First 90 Days. I got that when I started. Do you know why that’s tradition, Amy B?
AMY BERNSTEIN: Well, I wasn’t in on the decision, but I also got that book when I started 10 years ago. And I assume it’s because we recognize, we as an organization recognize that it’s really important to lay the groundwork from your first day, right Amy?
AMY GALLO: Yeah, those first 90 days, actually, probably the whole first year when you’re a new employee is a formative time, right? You’re sussing out people and how work gets done. You’re getting to know your boss, you’re establishing expectations and goals, and you’re making all those mental notes of how things actually work, what the office politics are, who you want to be friends with.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yeah. So going through that transition for any new job, it’s always challenging, but I think it’s even more challenging when you’re remote and the culture of your workplace isn’t already geared toward being remote.
AMY BERNSTEIN: I mean, how do you suss out the social dynamics and the politics and all of the unspoken stuff?
AMY GALLO: Well, and it’s not just about remote. I mean, so many organizations, including our own are in this like betwixt between stage of like we’re coming in the office some days and not others and we’re changing the policies and you know, there’s just so much happening.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Everybody’s figuring things out while you’re figuring things out in a completely new position.
AMY BERNSTEIN: You’re listening to Women at Work from Harvard Business Review. I’m Amy Bernstein.
AMY GALLO: I’m Amy Gallo.
EMILY CAULFIELD: And I’m Emily Caulfield. How are women who started jobs remotely doing? Was their virtual onboarding helpful to them? Has their boss been attentive and supportive? We ask these questions in a survey which nearly 200 women completed. Their responses speak to the complexity that new hires have been dealing with. Later in the episode, two workplace experts will give advice for new hires and their bosses on managing the first month of a new job when you’re not in person. But first, producer Elainy Mata is here to share highlights from the survey.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Elainy, thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
ELAINY MATA: Thanks, Emily. This was really interesting to work on.
EMILY CAULFIELD: In general, how did the women who responded to the survey feel about their new jobs? How are they feeling?
ELAINY MATA: A lot of woman said they were doing okay. Jenna from Illinois, who is in customer success, told us she’s still figuring out how to work this remote lifestyle, but it’s the best decision that she’s made. Melissa from Canada in financial services said, her job is “amazing on paper”, but there are a lot of “spinning plates and constant changes that make it really frustrating”. And then there are women who really didn’t have much support in this transition at all. Another woman that responded to us from Amsterdam said that she isn’t learning as much as she had hoped and since her boss quit, she has no one to ask questions to. And Sarah Grace, who is a business manager at a bank, she realizes that the hybrid model really doesn’t work to her strengths.
SARAH GRACE: Because what I’m really strong in, I would say is soft skills and everything to do with reading people and communication and kind of understanding what’s going on under the surface of the conversation. And that’s just, it’s just much harder. But of course, I mean, I think we all know that, you know, hybrid working is probably here to stay and I’ll have to find a way around that.
ELAINY MATA: And then Lori from Oregon, who’s in law, is excited about learning new things, but making connections is hard and making connections has been probably the most common frustration that we saw in this survey.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Wow, so a really mixed bag. And I’m looking forward to digging into all of that with you, but let’s start at the beginning of all of their work experiences at their new jobs and talk about onboarding. I know that the quality of somebody’s onboarding from a lot of the stuff that we publish here at HBR really influences their immediate and their long-term success in a role. What did women say about their onboarding experiences?
ELAINY MATA: So this was another question that we got a lot of different answers. And like I mentioned before, some women weren’t really getting support during their transition.
RACHAEL: Instead, it was a little bit more of like, oh, Hey, you’re here. Great. Here’s an Excel sheet. And you should probably get to know people. Feel free. And it’s such a big company. I was kind of like, hmm. I-okay.
ELAINY MATA: A mid career women and telecommunications told us, “I got a good deal of onboarding in the first two weeks, but then it dropped off. I don’t have personal relationships with people, except my boss. It’s hard to know what everybody else in the organization is doing because there is limited sharing.”
EMILY CAULFIELD: Did you see any differences between women who were newer in their careers and women who were mid career or late career?
ELAINY MATA: So the most common response that I got from women that are in their mid to late careers is their experience and how it’s really helped them in this transition. One woman said, “I had to take more upon myself. Usually you can easily grab coffee with someone when now that’s much more scheduled.” Another woman told us that, “I had to create my own onboarding because my supervisor didn’t think to plan it. Good thing. I’m an experienced professional because it has been a rough ride.”
EMILY CAULFIELD: It sounds like it came in handy though, that they knew what good onboarding looked like and like they knew that they were supposed to connect with colleagues.
ELAINY MATA: Yeah. You have to go by, okay, what have I done before that has helped me so I can actually move forward? And a lot of women, not just these two really took it upon themselves to have an easier transition.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, you said a couple of times that a lot of new hires have had problems forming good relationships with their coworkers or with their bosses. And for the people who said that they had success forming those relationships, what did they do? How were they able to make those connections happen?
ELAINY MATA: So, the biggest theme is women taking the initiative to create the experience that they want at work whether you’re hybrid or remote. Heather is doing that exact thing and she’s taking the initiative to connect with their coworkers through Slack.
HEATHER PRICE-JONES : We have a water cooler conversation where we talk about things that aren’t necessarily work-related. It’s like a muted conversation, but we can still check in and if people are like feeling like they have the capacity for casual conversations, we go there. And we also just try to bring in personal aspects of ourselves, like at the end of every week, talking about something that we accomplished professionally, but then also something that like, we’re really excited about personally, to try and create that relationship. And every day we’re learning new things about each other.
ELAINY MATA: And Mariah, her supervisor led her to making more connections within the organization.
MARIAH: Within my first, I think on my first day, my supervisor noted that I had work on my resume and then also said things in an interview about my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion inside the organizations I’ve worked at and encouraged me to join the DEI committee. And actually just told me to email our VP for DEI and set up a one-on-one meeting with her. So by the end of my second week, I was both on the DEI committee and on a subcommittee, which again, helped me meet way more people in the organization that I would have not otherwise and feel like I have a place in the culture as opposed to like being this floating person disconnected from a lot of the other stuff that’s happening inside, particularly being on such a small team.
EMILY CAULFIELD: I think it’s amazing that she jumped right in and it was with the encouragement from her boss.
ELAINY MATA: That encouragement goes a long way. Shout out to Mariah’s supervisor who really helped her out with her onboarding.
MARIAH: For almost every day of my first 90 days of work, I had an hour long one-on-one meeting with my supervisor, which I have never had had a job before, but I knew it was because she was really dedicated to making sure that I felt like I knew what I was doing and that I had someone to talk to and that I didn’t feel just a completely alone in my apartment all the time.
EMILY CAULFIELD: She’s so supportive. That’s amazing. An hour long meeting every day. I don’t know how many people can do that.
ELAINY MATA: Can you do that?
EMILY CAULFIELD: I don’t know how many people can make that happen. That sounds like a lot but-
ELAINY MATA: It sounds like a lot. If you’re constantly seeing these people every day. Please, one hour.
EMILY CAULFIELD: But, very, very supportive. What else were supportive managers doing?
ELAINY MATA: So, have you ever felt like you’re in a task and you’re having a really hard time approaching it. And you’re like, how in the world do I do this?
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yes.
ELAINY MATA: This supportive boss was aware of her employee’s emotional distress.
WOMEN 1: And she’s like, let’s just sit down and do this together. And something that would have taken me like two days, we did an hour and a half. That was a great point where like now I feel more self-assured.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Wow. That’s so nice.
ELAINY MATA: Ain’t that nice?
EMILY CAULFIELD: Because I know the feeling of starting a new job and being like, I don’t know what I’m doing. And then, you know, just trying to figure it out on your own and you don’t want your competence to be put into question. So, you’re like, I don’t know if I can ask, but then they got it done. Quickly together.
ELAINY MATA: And it takes a lot of courage to even be like, all right, can’t do this by myself. I have to ask for help. Sometimes we just need a push.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yeah. And for this first project, just getting that out of the way, it makes everything else after that feels so much easier, I bet, for her. It gives her some momentum. So, for women who at the beginning of their jobs, weren’t necessarily getting as much support as they needed, but later figured out how to get support, how were they able to bridge that gap?
ELAINY MATA: Well, we were just talking about, it’s really brave to ask for help.
MARIAH: I think there’s a lot of things that I have decided to ask about that if we were in person all the time, I might not have needed to ask because I could have just observed what other people were doing. And then I would’ve figured out what some of the cultural norms were inside the office, but I’ve had to be more direct in asking exactly like, you know, are you a texter or do you want me to Microsoft teams message you? Do you want me to email you? Do you want to call you? Like, how are we communicating?
ELAINY MATA: And Rachael went through that same process, too.
RACHAEL: I was only about a month in, and I was feeling really stuck. I really didn’t know what to do. I wanted to perform. I wanted to give my best. I was excited about the job and didn’t exactly know what they were looking for. It was interesting to see and realize I could start asking for what I needed and say like, hey, I don’t know about this or checking in, this is what I’ve learned so far, you have goals and expectations for the next month, the next three months. Kind of realizing like, nope, you actually do have the ability to take like your fate into your hands when you start a new job and I think that’s kind of what this process has shown me a little bit.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Hearing Rachael say that you can take your fate into your hands. It gave me chills. Like it feels, yeah, it feels very empowering. For the women who have the option to go into the office, how are they using it? How are they using that to their advantage?
ELAINY MATA: The one thing that I kept hearing is just creating structure. Victoria takes advantage of being in the office to focus on work.
VICTORIA: Rather than being distracted by all kinds of personal matters, whether it’s laundry or an interesting book. I think the other thing is coming in the company new and trying to fit in and trying to get to know the culture a bit better. Being able to speak to people, to see how people interact, gives you a much better understanding of that. At least that’s what I found.
ELAINY MATA: Sarah Grace uses it as a chance to spread out the people that she meets in the organization.
SARAH GRACE: So, it is a hybrid model, but in my position, I have permission to go in every day and I usually do, but there will be a different set of people around me. So, most of the other teams, you know, they have team A comes in on Mondays team B comes in on Tuesdays and so on. So, I’m there most days, but then the people around me kind of rotate, which on the one hand is it’s good because when you’re new to the team, it’s really overwhelming to kind of try and meet 200 people all at once. So it’s nice to kind of have them clearly separated out and you go, okay. If I meet someone on a Wednesday, that means they must be part of this group.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yeah,that seems really useful. She can space it out. And it’s nice that she can go in every day because that way she doesn’t miss anyone.
ELAINY MATA: Yeah. And there’s, from what it sounds like, if people are spread out, you still have time for yourself.
HEATHER: I’m Heather Price-Jones. I work in public relations and communications. I have the tiniest apartment. My apartment is so small. It doesn’t even have room for a desk. So I sit on my couch. I have one of those little folding tables. I have a little pedal thing I can use if I really need to get my feet moving. And it’s just me and my little dog and we work in here, and we sleep in here, and we eat in here. So, it becomes a little difficult to like, where does the work day end? Because I’m just here. One of the hardest parts is that I work with social media and that’s constantly on your phone and constantly going off and there’s always that ingrained, like want and need to check those notifications.
EMILY CAULFIELD: It’s hard to set boundaries when you’re working from home. How have these women who are starting new jobs, been able to set boundaries?
ELAINY MATA: Yeah. Because it’s really hard to bring work into your home like this. Heather tackled it in a way that made a huge difference.
HEATHER: I’ve created healthy boundaries with my boss, where she doesn’t expect us to work on weekends or holidays. And especially for social media posts, like she wouldn’t want me to do that. And she’s like really done a great job of creating this atmosphere of, if you feel like you need a break and you’re having difficulty disconnecting, then like you can do it. Or if you’re working late one night, you can basically change your hours the next day and sleep in a little bit. So that’s nice to have that flexibility, but I try to stay to those hours because then I know in my head, if it’s five o’clock, then I’m off and I’m not paying attention to it anymore.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So Elainy, we’ve covered a lot of information. We’ve learned a lot from these different women. What are we taking away about the support that new hires need right now?
ELAINY MATA: The support from your supervisor, manager, or superior is huge.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yep. Some help and some encouragement to talk to other people in the organization. That seemed like a big thing.
ELAINY MATA: And setting boundaries, making sure that you know when you’re working, when you can turn on and when to turn off, too.
EMILY CAULFIELD: And if your boss isn’t being like necessarily proactive, or helping you make connections or give you the support that you need, it’s important that you go after what you know that you need in that job in making those connections.
ELAINY MATA: Yeah. Just ask. It’s so simple. Just ask. Ah (singing). Sew it on a pillow. But really, you mentioned before, it’s always nerve wracking to kind of admit to yourself I need help and I really can’t do this on my own. Asking for just like just some assistance goes such a long way. I mean, we heard it, them asking, made them feel better about their role and how to, how to proceed with other tasks.
EMILY CAULFIELD: And maybe you can meet with your direct report for an hour a day for 90 days, you could do something that helps support them and helps them feel like they’re getting what they, what they need throughout the day and to start off on the right foot in this new job.
AMY BERNSTEIN: So that was such an interesting conversation and there was a point that hit me. I know it hit you too, Emily. It’s where Rachael said that you can take your fate into your own hands. The new job didn’t have to happen to her. She didn’t have to be the passive participant. She really could determine how her onboarding worked and how, how she could thrive in that new role and I found that kind of inspiring. And as a manager, I, I really appreciate hearing that because it means that this employee, this, this new teammate is going to be proactive, is going to bring new ideas is going to add. And that’s, that’s who Rachael sounds like to me.
AMY GALLO: I heard that comment a little differently, because I sort of felt bad that she had to take fate into her own hands. I mean, I, I know how challenging it is to onboard someone and I know all managers don’t do it perfectly and it takes a lot of time and effort to get it right.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, we’re actually going to hear from two women who have advice for new hires and their managers for dealing with some of the most common challenges. Amelia Ransom is an HR executive at Smartsheet, a software company. She started her job in August and is entirely remote.
AMELIA RANSOM: I think one of the challenging things is, you know, on Friday I was at this same desk working for one organization and on Monday I was at the very same desk working for a different organization.
BETH SCHINOFF: So, you’re basically like just flipping a switch in your head and all of a sudden you’re in a new workspace, which is so interesting.
EMILY CAULFIELD: That’s Beth Schinoff and management professor at Boston college. Her research focuses on how employees form and maintain friendships, especially when they’re remote. Beth and Amelia, thank you so much for talking with me.
BETH SCHINOFF: Thanks for having us.
AMELIA RANSOM: Thank you so much. Happy to be here.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, Amelia, I want to start with you. You are a new hire. In order to get a strong start on a job, what is the responsibility of the manager, and what’s the responsibility of the employee?
AMELIA RANSOM: I love this question. And so first I want to pause and do a PSA for managers. But I will come- I promise to answer your question. But we’re asking managers to work very differently than we have asked them to work ever and that’s not just because of the pandemic, but yet exacerbated by it. Over the past five, seven years, we’ve asked managers to lean in to thinking about their folks holistically, 360, your mental wellbeing, you know, how are you doing? What are you doing in your off time? You know, when are you closing the laptop and when are you opening it? We have managers now engaging in conversations about race and mental health. If a manager had told me seven, eight years ago, and any HR professional that they were about to have a conversation about race with their team, every HR bell in my head would have gone off. Okay. So, we are asking them to do this differently, but we as organizations in many ways have failed to help managers get the skills they need to do so. So, I just want to give a shout out to managers that are trying to get this right, that are really, really trying and may feel like they’re failing. You are being asked to work differently and I want to acknowledge that.
That said to your point about whose responsibility is it, it is a shared responsibility, but I put onus on the manager at the outset to open the doors, right? To create the environment such that the employee can thrive. So making sure people know they’re coming, making sure people understand what their role is going to be, knowing who they need to meet with first and then allowing that person to expand from there. But setting that up, blocking the time on the calendar for anything you think that they need to be doing in those first days and weeks and then knowing when you need to pull back. Some of the best feedback I ever got from an employee who I thought was still new, who decidedly needed to tell me she was not new anymore and she got this. When she said, I can use less time one-on-one with you and I thought success, right? And it was, but I needed to create the environment that allowed her to tell me that.
BETH SCHINOFF: It’s funny that you said that because you remember the example about the woman manager who blocked off like a month’s worth of one-on-one time with her. So, I was just thinking that like, that’s great, but at some point like that actually becomes less useful because she’s ready to fly on her, right?
AMELIA RANSOM: Absolutely. Yeah. I thought the same thing. I was like, I hope they’re checking in to make sure that still works because you could be hampering that employee rather than allowing them to thrive.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yeah. So how can new hires do, as Rachael said, Rachael was one of the women that we surveyed, how can they be taking their fate into their own hands? Like day one, week, one month, one in their first year?
BETH SCHINOFF: Actually, this idea of sort of taking your fate into your own hands, organizational behavior scholars have a term for that. It’s called proactive socialization. So it’s when you proactively take steps to sort of socialize yourself into an organization like creating connections with the people who you really need to meet, making sure you’ve done your research, reaching out to the right people, not wasting their time.
AMELIA RANSOM: And I think that starts prior to the first day. So I still am a big fan of the book. The first 90 days, it is still relevant for anybody changing a job or position. Like y’all need to read that book.
EMILY CAULFIELD: HBR.
AMELIA RANSOM: Yes. So, start that journey before day one. Align with your manager on what good looks like. Do you both share the same goals and do you both have the same vision of what good looks like? Ask people a few key questions. A question I’d love to ask people is what do I need to know that’s not written down anywhere? Right? Because there are those unwritten rules that are part of the culture that you want to understand so that you can already start to engage with the culture. And then we were saying this, but I think connecting on a level that isn’t just about the work. At a previous organization, I started a thing. We just called it the Hot Take. And it was just a question every day, do you like Twizzlers or Red Vines? Are you an evening person or a morning person? And it really was a great way to get people connected to me and I got to ask them questions. During the pandemic we took it online to slack. And so we just, again, it’s a fun question you can ask every day, like, do you fold your fitted sheet or not? Like it’s just fun and engaging and you get to know people and create an opening to deeper conversations.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, Amelia, you mentioned that you should try to get on the same page with your boss, try to figure out what good looks like and how you can be successful in your role. What are some questions that you could ask to try to figure that out?
AMELIA RANSOM: Couple of questions. One, is there anything currently in flight that I need to jump into or get into right away? Right? As I’m doing my onboarding, is there anything currently in flight to at 60 days at 90 days, I’d like to be prepared with this or have this completed or do this. And for example, for me, I’m 90 days today.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Congratulations.
AMELIA RANSOM : Thank you. I have been marching toward a presentation for our executive team on what my roadmap is for next year. And so we aligned to that before I even started, like I want to do, be prepared to do that and in fact we’re doing part of it this afternoon. So that is what good looked like to me. I wanted to make sure it looked like that to my manager. So what that meant is I’m not gonna have that at 60 days. I’m not going to have that at, you know, 75 days. I’m going to have that by 90 days, we’ll be prepared to have that conversation.
BETH SCHINOFF: One of the interesting things, Amelia, is that like you’re walking into these conversations with your manager already having a game plan for what you want, right? So you’re not really relying on your manager to say what good is. You have an idea of what good is for you. And so I think, you know, back to your earlier point about taking some of the burden away from managers, that’s another way that employees should be doing that a little bit is having a sense of what they want or need before walking into conversations with their manager.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, Beth, you heard Elainy mentioned that making connections was one of the most challenging parts of starting a new job. I’m wondering if you can tell us some strategies that new hires or their managers could use to try to make that a little bit easier.
BETH SCHINOFF: You know, this is where the manager can really step in and sort of set the stage for the employee by creating one-on-ones for their employee who they have people like with people who they know they actually need to meet or have to meet or should meet in the organization. And so in some ways a manager has to sort of create a personalized plan for every new hire who’s starting, especially remotely, because they don’t have the opportunity to sort of run into others casually at a photocopier or in the hallway, or have the meeting after the meeting where you get introduced to somebody who you wouldn’t otherwise meet. So really making sure that they have the opportunity to meet those individuals so they don’t feel like they don’t know who to go to when they need to get their work done. And then I think what new hires can do, they can do some research to figure out who they need to connect to. If their manager isn’t connecting them to the right people, maybe they can ask to be connected to those people. But I also think that if you have any opportunity to go into the office as a remote employee exploit that. Use that to me as many people as you possibly can, because we just don’t have the technology to really proxy for that in-person connection. And so, you know, really make sure that you’re, you’re going in on a day when you can meet the people who you need to meet.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Exactly. Yeah. I’m thinking back to when I first started this job and you’d bump into people and they’d be like, Hey, do you want to have a coffee? Or do you want to get lunch tomorrow? And if I had started this job fully remote, I would have really been missing out on those types of little casual encounters, those random experiences that you have just by bumping into people or just being in close proximity to them.
BETH SCHINOFF: You know, what remote work does is it takes away all of the informal interaction. You’re only connecting for work-related reasons. And so, if you have no reason to reach out to somebody for work, then you’ll never meet them when you’re remote.
AMELIA RANSOM: Listen, every opportunity when I started with the company and someone said, “I’d like to get on your calendar or meet with you.” Yes, yes, yes, yes. Anything somebody tried to include me in, I showed up for. Just to meet people, to show them who I was to let them know what I was about to learn more about them and then you create those connections. Look, I sent a coworker in Boston, some of the, my favorite tea, because we were having a conversation about tea and I just was like, oh, I’ll just send you some and try it and see if you like it. I mean, it’s a $20 investment, right? Another colleague sent me something and I’ve sent book links to people because we found out we had a shared interest and they’re like, oh, thank you. It’s that kind of connection. So yes, ask about the work, ask about how work gets done, but make sure you ask something about the person about what really excites them or you see something in their background of their zoom. And you’re like, oh, where is that from? Like, this thing on my wall is from Brazil, right? So you just ask those questions and get to know people, but you’re right. We have to proxy for that bump into people, you know, dynamic that happened in offices. And let’s be clear, some people were always remote. We had remote workers before the pandemic and so this has been a way to really include them. In many instances, this has helped us create more inclusive environments, believe it or not, than offices ever could.
BETH SCHINOFF: Yeah. So in the survey that you guys did earlier, there were people talking about how the beginning of starting any new job, you’re kind of bored often. Like you just don’t have as much work as you do once things ramp up. So, you can really use the first week or month of your job for relational reasons, right? To make these connections and to say yes to every invite that comes at you. And to really get to know people as like a way of sort of like supplementing the work that you just don’t have until you have that work. And then sometimes those connections just feel like you’re too busy to make them. So, so really using that time wisely.
EMILY CAULFIELD: I like you saying that because I feel like it gives people permission to do that and sometimes you feel like creating those social ties isn’t necessarily part of the job, but it is part of the job.
BETH SCHINOFF: And all the research says that you’re actually better at your job when you have these relationships. So, it’s not just for your own psychological and social wellbeing, it’s for the organization’s wellbeing too.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yes. Exactly. So, Beth, what about setting boundaries with people that you’ve just met?
BETH SCHINOFF: Yeah. I mean, I think. So, you know, to Amelia’s point about how a lot of this work happens before, that’s something that you should think about before starting any new job is what are my personal boundaries? What are my preferred work hours? But, Amelia probably is still dealing with this and figuring this out right now.
EMILY CAULFIELD: What if your coworker wants to send you emails at midnight?
AMELIA RANSOM: I think a thing to ask, I would start with a question. Are those your preferred working hours? How do you work best? What are the best ways to engage with you? I think as you’re meeting people, those are questions you can ask other people and then you can share your own. I’m best at slack, or I’m best on email, I tend to work these kinds of hours. I work for a global company, so people are always on and always off, right? So we understand that it works that way, but really stating upfront how you anticipate working and then reevaluating that, can you be your most effective by doing it the way that you’ve set out that you’re going to do it? Are you suffering in some ways? Is your family life suffering, because you said, oh, I’m going to work these hours and all of a sudden you realize, Oh, I need to rethink that and try to reshift. Give yourself permission to do that as well. But I always like to start with my hand out to say, how do I best engage with you? Tell me more about you and then I would like to tell you about me as well.
BETH SCHINOFF: So that is actually like one of the keys to relationship building online is matching your own communication style and medium to your relationship partners, the other person’s. If that person likes to talk on the phone and you’re a text person only ,that relationship is never going to work because that person’s never going to answer your texts and you’re never going to pick up their phone calls. So you really have to be flexible when you’re working remotely across the different media and not really glom on to just one, right? And then also like Amelia said, ask, how do you like to communicate and then tailor your communication style to that person’s rather than waiting for them to tailor it to you.
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, in the survey, several of the women said that in the first few weeks of starting their jobs, they met a lot of people, started a lot of relationships and then it sort of fell off after that. How can they sustain those relationships?
AMELIA RANSOM: I think one of the first ways is to set up recurring meetings when it makes sense. And you could do that for five minutes, 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be in half hour or whole hour. It can be really simple. And you can just check in beforehand, “Hey, do we still need this time today? I’d love to catch up just to see how you’re doing or what you’re working on and how I can support you.” But keep the momentum going. And I like to do that by setting up recurring time with people that I really felt connected to or wanted to stay connected to. I also use other tools like keeping a running list of things I found interesting about a person. Like, Oh, I met Beth today and she really likes to do this thing, or she’s really working on this. So when I check in, I can go quickly to that list, remind myself reground in it and then open up with something interesting to ask that person about what they’re working on or what they feel good about this week.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Oh, wow. How organized.
AMELIA RANSOM: Right? But sometimes we forget, at least I forget. I have so many people that I’m meeting with and connecting with that I might lose the thread on a particular person and I don’t want to do that. And so I really will. I’ll just take a quick note, you know, Beth lives here, she does this, she was training for a marathon. Let me ask her how that’s going. Like it’s just a way to quickly ground in the conversation so that I don’t walk in just with nothing.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yep. So sometimes when you are trying to get to know people, you can realize that your colleagues are overwhelmed or exhausted, or they just really don’t have a lot of time. How can we navigate around that a little bit?
BETH SCHINOFF: I think one thing that we can do is use this time to get work done, together but independently. And then in that time, if a newcomer has a question or a new hire has a question, they can just ask it on the fly and it’s so much less pressure to do that as you’re working through something versus having a laundry list of questions that have just built up over time. And I’ll give you an example. So I have a very close colleague who works in Wisconsin. I work in Boston. We actually work via GChat together on different projects all the time and this allows us to get stuff done separately, but to ask each other questions as we’re going so that it’s much more fluid and a much better use of both of our time than just meeting for the sake of meeting.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yeah. I wanted to ask how planned these recurring meetings should generally be. Do you think that there should be an agenda every recurring meeting or is it okay to kind of have them all be sort of whatever comes up?
AMELIA RANSOM: I like the idea of just checking in maybe the day before to say, Hey, I’d love to talk about this or this, or what do you have that you’d like to talk about? Do you want to do a walking meeting? Do you want to do, you know, something else altogether? But also sometimes, you know what I like to do to people? I like to send someone a message and say, Beth, I am keeping this meeting on the calendar, but I’m not going to show up. And so you get to keep that hour block or 30 minute block on your calendar and do whatever the heck you want to do. Talk to you next week. Like sometimes that’s the best gift you can give anybody is not another meeting. Not another, I gotta be on camera or I have to be on kind of thing. I literally do. I’m like, you know what? Catch up next week. Keep it on your calendar, though. And, and keep it moving and checking next week or whenever you need to.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Yeah. I love these ideas. Amelia, so, some relatively new hires are stressed about the fact that they don’t know things that they feel they should have learned a few months ago or a year ago. How do you suggest employees approach their boss or their colleagues with those lingering questions that they have?
AMELIA RANSOM: Spoiler alert. They don’t know everything either. So keep asking the questions until you get the answers that you need. And when you know things be that person. I have a colleague that when, whenever we’re in a meeting together, she is that person chatting me separately to let me know what the acronym means that I may be hearing for the first time or maybe for the 10th time. But I’ve heard so many acronyms that I don’t remember. And so she’s so gracious to say, do you remember what that means? Or remember that thing is connected to that thing. She’s incredibly gracious that way. And so I want to be that person that shows up for other people in that way. So, just ask. You think it’s going to make you look bad. I promise you. I have never, in all of the years I’ve been an HR professional and other professionals as well. I’ve never once thought that person just asked so many questions. I love the questions. They’re great. And they, and they challenged me on the answers.
BETH SCHINOFF: But I still think for some people it’s really hard to do that, right? Even if they’ve convinced themselves that no one’s going to judge them harshly. So like maybe they reach out to someone who they really trust. Even if that person doesn’t seem like the person who’s going to have the answer or know the right person for that question, just ask it anyway and they can at least point you to the next person. And maybe if they don’t want to be the person who’s always asking one question after the other, they can write down all of their questions so that they have it in front of them when they talk to the person. So that it’s not like 10 minutes later. Here’s another question, another question. But instead you’re using people’s time wisely because everybody is overworked, overwhelmed, tired. So just some things that can kind of like increase your confidence and actually asking those questions. If you are more scared to do that
AMELIA RANSOM: And I get it, I’m not trying to diminish how people might feel about asking questions, but I really want, in particular women, to know that this is something that everyone else read, those who identify as male, are doing all the time. I’ve never had a man ever pause and say, I shouldn’t be asking you so many questions. It has literally never happened to me, but people who identify as women do it regularly. The thing that I do proactively is when people show up, in particular people of color and in particular women, in front of me apologizing for questions, we got to shut that down. I will. I will take no apologies for questions.
EMILY CAULFIELD: Thank you so much Amelia and Beth for being here with me.
BETH SCHNIOFF: Thank you.
AMELIA RANSOM: Thanks for having us.
AMY BERNSTEIN: That’s our show. I’m Amy Bernstein.
EMILY CAULFIELD: I’m Emily Caulfield.
AMY GALLO: And I’m Amy Gallo. Our editorial and production team is Amanda Kersey, Maureen Hoch, Rebecca art, Erica Truxler Tina Tobey Mack and Elainy Mata. Robin Moore compose this theme music.
We are working on an episode about how the concept of professionalism has changed since the pandemic and how women are navigating. What feels authentic now?
EMILY CAULFIELD: I’m sitting here in my jeans and my hiking boots, and most of my makeup came off on my mask. So that’s my appearance. In terms of sharing my emotions or sharing other personal details, I think I’m feeling a little bit more comfortable about it. I think that people have opened up much more.
AMY GALLO: I mean, it definitely seems like the norms have shifted in some way. And we would love to hear from you all, our listeners, about how you are showing up both internally and externally at work these days. Is it different now? Are you pushing some of the norms you would’ve never pushed before? And are you getting any pushback from that?
EMILY CAULFIELD: So, email us and tell us about your experience at [email protected]
AMY GALLO: Thanks for listening and for contributing.