By Nan Nan Liu | Strong Female Leaders

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New Job? How to thrive in a completely different culture.
The unspoken influence of culture is as important to work as it is to a country. If you are new on the job, understanding your new workplace's culture helps initial interactions go smoothly. Otherwise, you risk tripping over unexpected fault lines and having to do damage control. Effective positioning early on starts you on a high, and enables you to thrive.

So how can you thrive in a completely different culture? Here are ways to get started:
1. Ask the right questions.
Talking with actual team members is a good start. The briefings you received from leadership, the hiring committee or HR provide a general view. The truth, however, can only be offered by actual employees. Conversations with team members can lead you to behind-the-scenes dynamics such as who are feuding and who the real political influence is.

The objectives are to identify possible pitfalls, find potential allies, and face a brand new political climate with confidence.

To ease into such conversations, ask open-ended questions such as "what are we doing well on?”, "how can we improve?", and "what are our impediments?". With luck, you and your new team will share the same vision. At a minimum, you understand the risks.
2. Find a "cultural mentor" immediately.
After spending time with your new team, you should identify a cultural mentor. Look beyond the title, and dig deep for real influence.

Preferably, this person understands your needs, values relationships, knows the organizational terrain, and has a respectful reputation. Positioning yourself with a highly regarded person can enhance your own social value.
3. Move slowly, at first.
All new hires want to start with a bang. Some were even directed to do so during their hiring process. Then, they move too fast, and focus solely on fixing surface issues without exploring the underlying causes and complexities. This “hit the ground running” attitude may offend team members and result in rebel actions like passive-aggressive compliance or back-channel complaints to higher leadership.

If you’ve already done this, it’s okay. Simply point out your lack of cultural knowledge. Then, continue to move towards your goals, but slowly this time. You can do so by making small increments, opening up a feedback loop, and continuing to connect with your team.

4. Watch what you say and how you say it.
Before entering a new workplace culture, expect that it will be significantly different than your previous place, and that you will make mistakes. To certain individuals, your tone will sound too harsh, your standards will be too high, and your team will complain about you at some point, and especially early on.

To continue to make progress, prime yourself for sticky situations with prepared apologies and visualized exit strategies. Keep it short, sweet and task-focused; and NEVER EVER COMPLAIN.
5. Give yourself a break.
A few mishaps should not tarnish your reputation as long as you handle it quickly and professionally. Misunderstandings happen all the time. Leverage each experience to build your conflict resolution skills. Over time, your positivity will shine through.
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