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I work for a boss/project manager at a new company who is a total 180 from my former boss (which is why I picked him) and creates a completely different culture in the project team. He is very optimistic, and assumes that people want to do their best work until proven otherwise. If the work is slow, he tries to figure out what the reason is and address the reason, instead of getting more aggressive. He makes decisions based on what the pros and cons of his decision will be, and by thinking through what he wants to achieve. I like my boss very much, and have never respected someone I work for as much as I respect him. Besides being a very considerate and appropriate manager, he's a nice person who likes to have some kind of relationship with the people he works with, person to person.

However, because of past experiences at my previous job, I feel very anxious at work, and am oftentimes withdrawn from my boss and co-workers. While I like my boss and most of my co-workers very much as people, I am afraid to open up to them. I know my boss would like me to trust him more, and I know intellectually that he has given me every reason to trust him, but I am afraid to. I also oftentimes experience overwhelming stress, anxiety, and fear at work in which I am suddenly terrified of getting fired, and begin looking around for a threat, or something I could be in trouble for. This fear interferes with my work and slows down my progress.

I believe I am a valuable member of the team but am having trouble fully integrating.

How can I better adapt to the culture of my new team?

  • Hi Code Junkie! Welcome to PMSE! We're currently revising our site scope. I'm closing this for now, while our community discusses whether we should allow questions of this nature. Please feel free to follow and participate in our Project Management Meta discussions! :) Additionally, the faq has some guidelines to help you edit the question to make it fit the constructiveness guidelines. Feel free to edit and leave a comment for reopening if you feel you've made it fit. – jmort253 Jul 5 '12 at 20:48
  • See meta.pm.stackexchange.com/questions/371/… for the meta discussions on this question. – jmort253 Jul 5 '12 at 21:00
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I would advise you NOT to disclose these types of issues. Instead, hire a therapist.

On the job, your boss is accountable for the successful completion of whatever it is your team builds or provides. He is already coping with performance variability of his tools, his processes and controls, and his team. He already knows the human fragility--physical and emotional--that threatens the performance of his team, making his team the weakest enabler of his capability to get the job done.

On one hand, it is great that you are open to take a serious look at emotional concerns/issues you have; many simply ignore it or over compensate in some unhealthy way. However, your work place is not the place for emotional growth or recovery. By bringing this up to your boss, you are putting on his radar screen the root causes for any performance degradation you will--not can, but will--exhibit from time to time. And, there are prejudices and biases that accompany this. Once you slap this label onto yourself, it is very hard to peel it off. Finally, the old adage to 'your team is only as strong as your weakest link' has some truth to it. You do not want your boss to think you are the weakest link in his capability.

However, since you are open to working on these things, seek out a mentor, a coach, a therapist, group support, even pharamcology. Go work on these things that trouble you so you can get relief on the work site.

  • Thank you for your answer. The most valuable thing I've gotten from this and other answers was something I didn't expect: more clarity on what my boss deals with. I worry a lot about how I impact my boss and how I interact with him, but I don't often realize what a small part of his set of responsibilities at work has anything to do with me. I see now that whereas I was assuming it would be mutually beneficial for me to talk to him about this, it might only make things harder for him, while not really solving my problem. I am interested in working on this, and will look for a better way. – Code Junkie Jul 6 '12 at 4:28
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I would encourage any team member to come to me with any issues that impacts the project or poses a risk to successful completion of the project (i.e. to scope, budget, time, quality, etc etc).

I would not encourage a team member to come to me in the expectation that I can act as a therapist because I am not one and would likely cause more problems.

You may have less (or more) serious of a problem than you think, so you may want to seek out counselling from a trained professional. Or at least hash the issue out with trusted friends and family before going to your boss. If and when you to talk to your boss about this it would be good to have a solution to go with the problem.

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As project managers, how would you feel about an employee coming to you with personal fears that they feel interfere with their work?

I would listen to it but when I feel that it crosses the professional boundaries, I'll stop the discussion.

Is that a violation of professional boundaries?

Yes, it is.

Is it appropriate to discuss fears like these with your boss/co-workers?

If they are your friends (they also see you as a friend) and are open to talk about this with you.

What would be reasonable for me to expect out of that conversation?

No clue, I'm afraid nobody knows.

How would you react if an employee came to you with a discussion like this one?

I would give you the opportunity to talk, until the discussion is kind of professional. Sometimes people would like to talk to somebody and then they are fine.

However, it looks like you have more serious issues, so this won't really help. I advise to talk about this with someone who is close to you (family, friends, but not co-workers). If the situation is not improving it may worth to talk to a professional.

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Integrating into a new team and adapting to a new culture can always be challenging. However, over the long term, to be a productive member of the team you will need to find your place in the team.

If there are personal issues that are standing in the way of adapting or that are affecting your productivity, follow David's advice and find a way to resolve them.

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