Making your point as Johnny-Come-Lately
An article by Philip Hesketh
If you’ve ever been the new kid on the block, you’ll know how difficult it is to have your views accepted by the ‘established group’. For someone who is effectively joining a company as Financial Director it is almost inevitable. Imagine you’ve joined a new company and you’re attending a think tank to discuss a problem which is new to them, but old hat to you. Something you experienced and dealt with in your previous job. In theory, your views should be welcomed with open arms. But in practice, it’s more likely to be open mouths. Who does this start-up think he is? He’s only been here five minutes?
This group behavious is what Psychologist Matthew Hornsey from the University of Queensland calls ‘Unreasoning hostility’. It consists of having your views largely ignored or over-looked.
In my house it’s called parenting.
Anyway, to test the theory, Matthew’s researchers asked 200 health professionals for their opinions on criticism leveled at their hospital by an independent observer. However, whilst one half were led to believe that the critic was a newcomer who had worked there only three weeks, the other half were told that it was the views of someone who had worked at the hospital for 18 years. Naturally, the criticisms were identical, with the only difference being the apparent source.
As suspected, the views of the ‘newcomer’ were thought to carry less weight than those of the ‘old-timer’. What’s more, their criticism was also seen as less constructive whilst their suggestions were more readily dismissed by the health professionals.
So, as a newcomer, how do you worm your way into a group’s affections and begin to generate influence? The answer is to tread carefully and gain acceptance first. Once you become part of the group you can begin to make all manner of recommendations, however absurd. Newly appointed cabinet ministers are prime examples. For instance, you wouldn’t ask the Minister for Transport for expert advice on a schools matter. You’d wait until the cabinet re-shuffle next week and ask him when he’s Minister for Education.
Bottom line is you have to be part of the group. A fully paid-up member of the club. One of them. You see, consciously or otherwise, people want to others to value their group as much as they do. So distancing yourself from an old group or employer increases your perceived allegiance to the new one. And criticism from a committed group member is seen as much more valid. In effect, it sweetens the bitter pill of reality.
Of course, the tempation when joining a new group is to try and make a big splash and impress other with your critical perceptions and new ideas. But this research tells us that toeing the line in the first instance is often the best long-term strategy. Remember, groups are hostile to criticism from newcomers and are likely to resist, dismiss or ignore it. Until you can prove your loyalty.
So if you’re a newcomer and want to gain influence and promote change in your new surroundings make sure you get well-established first. Because sometimes being right just isn’t enough.
Philip Hesketh is a professional speaker on the psychology of persuasion and author of the Amazon number one best selling book, ‘Life’s A Game So Fix The Odds’
Philip Hesketh – www.heskethtalking.com