Career Advice: Dealing with Changing Office Dynamics

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You’ve found the perfect job. You adore your co-workers. You’ve finally navigated the journey from Student to Professional. And then someone new joins the team, and it all changes.

Transitions in the workplace are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. Whether you work in a large or small office, new staff usually involves some sort of adjustment in company dynamics. While these changes can feel threatening, if possible, use them as an opportunity to make new allies or explore a new role. Make the change a change for the better! Here are a few thoughts on how to accomplish that.

Be Open to New Friends

One of the most difficult things to adjust to at the office can be the social shift that happens when someone new comes into the environment. Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, and if we’re lucky, we do so with people who become our friends and confidantes. Often, these relationships are easy and breezy, focused on chit-chat about things like the Game of Thrones finale, the NBA finals or what’s on sale at the mall. But a disruption in even the most casual of friendships can throw us for a loop when suddenly we find that someone else is sitting in our spot at the lunch table or that your usual breaktime buddy has made plans with the new employee.

At times like this, it’s important to remember that friendship is not a finite resource. There is enough for everyone to go around! Offer to take the new person out yourself one day so that you can get to know them. Chances are, they are feeling even more unsettled than you are while trying to navigate the social scene at the new job. If lunching without you starts to become a regular occurrence, mention it in an offhand way to your long-standing co-worker. He or she may not realize how much you enjoyed the company! And of course, recognize that there will always be workplace politics. If it turns out you don’t have things in common with a new employee and someone else does, use the time that they spend together to connect with others in the office or to enjoy some time to yourself.

Take Time for a Reality Check

When someone comes into your department, there may be a perceived change in your responsibilities. This can be jarring, especially if you feel like your new role is a demotion rather than a promotion. But before you get upset about it, take a moment to really look at what’s actually happening, not just how you feel about it.

Are you being left out of important meetings? Has your relationship with your immediate boss changed? Are your suggestions being ignored or repeatedly rejected? Have your own duties expanded in unexpected ways?

Take a look at your own job performance. Have you met all of your deadlines? Are you continuing to push and challenge yourself, or have you started coasting on previous successes? Have you seemed stressed out lately? If so, perhaps your boss or co-workers think they are doing you a favor by not asking you to work on a particular project.

Take stock of the situation, and then figure out the most effective way to react to it. It may involve a conversation with your supervisor, or it may need to be a shift in your own behavior.

Claim Your Role

If the new guy or gal has taken over parts of your job that you especially enjoyed, check in with your boss about it. Perhaps they didn’t realize that you were so enthusiastic about a particular aspect of your workload! Once they know how you feel, perhaps you can work out a way for you to reclaim those responsibilities. They key is expressing yourself clearly and succinctly, and going in with a plan addressing how you can maintain your current responsibilities as well as the pieces of the job you wish were still under your purview. At the very least, you may find out why your responsibilities have shifted. Even if you can’t go back to doing what you love, understanding why can go a long way in tolerating it.

Change can be challenging, but ultimately, I believe it helps us to find the strongest pieces of ourselves. Be brave and embrace the challenge!