Sink or Swim

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Sink SwimImage source: Flickr.com user “The Jamoker” via Wikimedia Commons

In light of several recent drownings, a news article examined the question of why people tend to drown together. The article writer’s conclusion: Most people don’t know how to help someone who’s drowning.

In business offices, a similar phenomenon exists. You may know it as “Sink or Swim” (SOS).

Managers who subscribe to SOS believe that letting a new employee fail or succeed on their own is the best way to find out early if that person can “cut it.” Staff may adopt the same attitude, thinking “I suffered through it, why shouldn’t you?”

The real question is why anyone should have to thrash helplessly in rising waters. As with actual drowning victims, the best way to help someone who is in over their head is to throw them a floatation device.

Here’s how to do that in the workplace.

Introduce yourself. In the SOS environment, the new hire is either given a quick tour and overloaded with names or left to fend for himself. A friendly greeting and introduction can help ease the stress.

Explain the office layout. No one likes having to ask where the bathroom is, and everyone has to find it at some point. If you’re unable to personally give a tour, or the office is too large, draw a simple map. Highlight the water fountain, the bathroom and kitchen or break room facilities.

Be a lunch buddy. Show up at lunchtime the first day. If you usually eat in the cafeteria, lead the way there. If your regular routine is to leave the office for lunch, point out nearby restaurants or mention where the take-out menus are stashed.

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