• A new man is an unread book, a new colleague is a large and complex book with hardcovers. So precious, you’re nervous opening it.

Trial and error – a main principle in evolution*

A new man is an unread book, a new colleague is a large and complex book with hardcovers. So precious, you’re nervous opening it.

There are those who erect an invisible barrier when meeting new colleagues. They don’t do it on purpose, they just don’t have time for them. They think: "He will learn alone". This is the right decision because this way they don’t deal with any of the "new", nobody will bother them with any of these: "One more question!", "Can I have you for a moment!", "Can I ask you something?" , "I just can’t get the hang of it. Would you spare me five minutes?“ (which turn to be 35), "Can I have one really quick question?". These are my memories of the last days of December 2015.

No, don’t think that I am complaining despite that I wear such a label. I’m saying all that because I have been on their side too, that of the “new one” when I saw what a “real” training was.

10 years ago I had an internship - received no training, just the following instruction: "If the team likes you, you stay. If not - you go in the restaurant!" (While I studied Sociology, I worked as a bartender.) There is another thing I will never forget: "Look, I'm throwing you in the deep: if you emerge, you’re the new Field Manager". Well, I stayed in that agency four years, back then I did not know what "field" even meant but the man was a psychologist and immediately understood that I like to be liked and used the word "Manager". He immediately won me over!

Nobody gave me even 30 minutes for a presentation of the DOS system or show me how to do sampling, or how to talk to people, how to conduct an interview or what a focus group is, what ASAP means and even what SPSS is and can that program grow in my little, frightened brain.

Once, in that same agency, I spent a day on Google looking for concepts such as "codebook" and "coding framework." How come no one spared 3 days for instruction and then 3 months for supervision that I had to figure it out the hard way - trial and error? They left me alone to encode the entire study "The Great Bulgarians", commissioned by the BNT, along with 8 coders for whom I was a mentor (immediately called Prof. Serafimova to brag about it). The strangest thing was that although I was an employee for only two months and had no idea how to code a questionnaire, I myself trained 7 experienced interviewers how to do it!

I worked long and hard, because I did not even know that there is no need to encode closed questions (such as gender, age, education). Those who know what I’m talking about might laugh, but those who don’t, should write me an email, I might save them some time.

But enough with my practical training! Let’s talk more about the challenge of working with a new colleague without raising barriers, the rest is "easy".

So what happens when you have to teach new colleagues? It is clear - you become the bad guy, they do not like you, get on your nerves, and test your patience. But they have no choice - they have to ask to be able to do their tasks on time. The result is a vicious circle, but not those of Dante, I hope.

There is no single opinion on the matter how much time it takes for one to become simply a “colleague” and lose the “new” prefix. For sure, that prefix is a burden heavy. The old dogs hope you’re ready when you arrive, hope they just have to give you a slight polish and you’re ready to shine. Not possible. Everybody goes through the trial and error principle and the night and day control over the “new” ones.

The new ones on the other hand hope to establish themselves quicker and gain trust and respect almost immediately. Not possible, first and above all - trial and error. And you have to learn alone. This is my personal experience, and not statistical evidence, that is, I might be wrong as well.

New colleagues usually go through a series of trainings for two days, after which when they sit on their desks, they feel like they have not been trained at all. The information is too much. Designing a new questionnaire in the system, adding new outlets, creating a new client - not so easy when you're new and alone. Then they ask a colleague for help, until he says "Please, let me to do a little of my own work!” And what follows? Another coffee or cigarette for comfort.

What can be done? Suggestions? Well, I don’t have any apart from patience.

Criticism from the management is only towards us, the old ones - the hope that people come prepared to work ASAP, to say the least, is an illusion. The challenge is to show great patience and calmness when faced with "stupid questions" and "minor details" from your new colleagues.

Last words of encouragement towards all those new: don’t be too shy, but don’t be too brash either. We might be old and tense but we know a thing or two and we might be of help to you.

* Any resemblance of real persons or events are completely random. The author is Krasimir Mihaylov, Senior Field Officer.

Photo: www.FreeImages.com/photographer/Alex974-51906