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Awkward Moments Every New Employee Understands

If you started your new job any time during the last 12 months, the awkward scenarios below may seem uncomfortably familiar to you. And if you're about to start your new job sometime in the near future, get ready: very few new employees are immune from these kinds of situations. They're just a few of the ordinary challenges that are part of stepping into a new professional position in a completely unfamiliar workplace.

The Nine-to-Five Job that Isn't

The job description for your position clearly states that this job is overtime-exempt, meaning you'll be paid for exactly 40 hours of work every week. You'll be expected to come in at 9:00 AM and leave at 5:00 PM every day. So for the first few weeks, that's exactly what you do. Then you find out that your coworkers are actually staying until 7:00 PM or later every night…often completing the jobs and tasks that you left behind when you called it a day. Awkward.

How you handle this will depend on your salary rate, your commuting distance, and your willingness to put your own life on hold every evening until the work gets done. If you just can't realistically stay as long as you're expected to stay, consider looking for another job somewhere else.

The Boss Who Just Doesn't Like You

If you expect your boss to be your new best friend (or worse, if you expect your boss to praise, coach, nurture, and care about you) it can come as a painful surprise to learn that she doesn't actually love you…or even like you. At all.

New relationships always require an adjustment period. While you and your new boss are feeling each other out and looking for common ground, be patient. In fact, expect to be more patient with her than she is with you. While you need her attention and approval in order to thrive in your role, she doesn't need yours. So give her a break, especially if you'd like to receive the same kind of respect in return.

Making (an Incorrect) Bold Decision

If you try to establish a name and a reputation for yourself right out of the gate by making a bold, forceful decision, be ready to bounce back if your decisive course of action is the wrong course of action. Meanwhile, try to get the lay of the land before you leap in. Size up the room before you suggest a wild idea, register a loud opinion, or criticize someone in public.

Coworker "Hazing"

In some workplaces, new employees aren't given an inch of respect until they've been part of the team long enough to prove their dedication and loyalty. If you're stepping into one of these workplaces, you'll know. Your coworkers won't give you the benefit of the doubt, they may question your motivations, and they may criticize your personal philosophy. This happens more often than you might imagine, even in a workplace full of adults. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a hazing, just wait it out. Take criticism in stride, stand up for yourself, and try to keep your sense of humor.

Lunch Confusion

What should you do when lunchtime comes around? Should you pack a lunch and eat it at your desk? Should you invite your coworkers out to a local restaurant? Should you wait for them to invite you? Should you order takeout and eat it in the break room?

This seems like a very minor problem, but it can make the first few weeks on a new job feel like a serious social challenge. Whatever option you choose, stay flexible and open to change. And try not to eat alone every single day.

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