Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reaching Out: Not Being Afraid to Drive the Nail in the Wood

It happens once or twice every month at work. Either I receive a "welcome wagon" mass email from one of the managers elsewhere in our vast IT organization who is announcing a new team member, or I receive some business-related message from some new person in the organization. Many people I know at work simply ignore and delete these communiqu├ęs without giving them second thoughts, but I that's not how I roll.

Whenever I receive these emails, I spend couple minutes composing quick "Welcome to the organization!"-type notes to newcomers, regardless of who they are in our 300-person department. Welcoming people is something that I strongly believe in. It doesn't matter that these new colleagues are situated in some distant work units within our IT group, or what their job titles are. And I don't really give a damn that I'm not "ranked high" in the traditional organizational chart either: I inevitably wind up encountering these colleagues during course of business, and it's best to become acquainted with new people early on. Getting to know the colleagues early helps establish familiarity and comfort--which is important when, months later, I am asked to work with them in high-leverage and pressure-filled situations.

And sometimes these messages of goodwill to new colleagues lead to fortuitous turn of events. I have established awesome work and personal relationships with these colleagues. Some have offered invaluable career and workplace guidance and mentorship. I wouldn't have the confidence to explore future learning and career opportunities without the encouragement and advice from these trusty colleagues.

There are naysayers who feel that I'm wasting time and workplace resource by reaching out to new colleagues. They feel that it is the job of the Administrative folks to welcome newcomers, and that it's not my place to socialize. They feel that those couple minutes that I spend communicating with new peers could be redirected to putting out the fire du jour. Or spent actively engaging in silo-building activities. Too bad for them that my interest lies in establishing relationships and networks, not silos and animosity towards outsiders.

Of course, when these naysayers are asked to work with these newcomers/strangers in high-leverage and pressure-filled situations, the naysayers cling onto their silos due to their unfamiliarity and lack of relationships with these colleagues: as a result, breakdowns in communication often occur.

Reaching out to newcomers has become second nature to me. It's also a way for me to "pay it forward." Before I moved to Portland in the fall of 1995 (during the heyday of the Internet phenomenon), couple of complete strangers who frequented a Usenet discussion group read a post of mine about my plans for relocating to Portland. These kindhearted folks sent private emails welcoming me to the city. The kindness of--and outreach by--these folks were not lost on me, and I vowed to adopt that habit whenever possible.

These former strangers and I have remained friends throughout these years. In fact, I'll probably see one of them at an after-work beer gathering of tech folks later today.

No comments:

Post a Comment