Workplace Culture Shock – Make a New Start


Employee Experience, Talent Acquisition

Workplace Culture Shock

Often when we think about culture shock, we associate it with traveling from one place to another, such as traveling abroad – How much am I supposed to tip? Am I allowed to shake hands? Where can I grab a cup of coffee? Even more shocking, though, can be the shock employees experience moving from one workplace to another.

Before working at IA, I was at a tech start-up where I was employee number eleven and helped to grow the business over the course of nearly six years. As someone who strongly identifies with my work, this was a point in my life where I did not know who I was outside of work because I lived and breathed my job. I lived all of the values of the company and bought into the ‘whatever is necessary’ mentality that it took to make the company successful.  The culture of the business was infused in me.  I had a lot of pride in representing the business and supporting my teammates in any way, shape, or form. However, in the middle of last year, I realized it was time to learn a different way of doing things, so I decided move on to a new opportunity – one in a new industry that would challenge me to think in new ways. 

Despite the excitement over a new role, I still had to shift my mindset and work. There were (and still are) old habits and ways of doing work that were ingrained in me from my previous environment. These habits were not necessarily good or bad, they just do not translate into my new role as they might have in my previous workplace. Fortunately, my team has been incredibly patient and encouraging. 

Helping others make a new start

As a leader, it’s important to recognize that each new employee joins you at a different level of readiness. Their experience transitioning into a new company may be more challenging than you think, and they’ll need your support. Providing context for how work gets done in your workplace and soliciting feedback on how they are adapting can go a long way. Unlearning old habits or learning new skills does not happen overnight.  

Here are some suggestions on how you can help new employees get over that initial culture shock:

Check in with them regularly to see how things are going.

Build intentional conversations around employee onboarding beyond the first 30 days. Ask probing questions, like:

  • How has the pace of work been for you?
  • Do you feel connected to the team or is there anyone you would like to get to know better?
  • What is your feedback on how we can improve as a team/company?
Help new employees find their place on a new team.

A compounding factor for many new employees right now is that they have not had the opportunity for any in person engagement, making the onboarding process that much more important. What might have come up in casual conversations in the past or interpreted by non-verbal cues is much more challenging in a virtual world. Frequent pulse checks via 1:1s or employee engagement tools can help boost the sentiment of new hires and allow you to address and concerns or issues right away. 

Set realistic expectations.

Like many new employees, I was eager to jump in right away and contribute to the team’s success. The reality is, it takes time to learn the company, the tooling, the rhythm of work. Leaders should map out the first 30-60-90 days with employees, setting them up for success while still leaving room for the new employee to listen and learn about their new organization. This helps everyone get off on the right foot and ensures a healthy start to the working relationship.

Your employees are your customers – you want them to choose to keep coming back to their responsibilities with motivation and excitement. Helping them ease into the culture shock of a new role will go a long way towards a successful onboarding and tenure with your organization.

Written by:

  • Becca Harrison

    As a Senior Advisor at IA, Becca is focused on project management and bringing client outcomes to life. Becca strives to turn project goals into reality and threads the voice of the client in all her plans.


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1 thought on “Workplace Culture Shock”

  1. These are really great suggestions for helping new employees acclimate to a new workplace setting! I especially appreciate the mention of regular check-ins and realistic expectations with the help of a 30-60-90-day plan. I was onboarded recently and the experience was fantastic because it incorporated a lot of these concepts that you suggest!

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