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Text comes from the book: “Come to stay - systemic hand luggage for successful onboarding” (2020), published by, reprinted with the kind permission of the publisher.

Here writes for you:

Helga Brüggemann heads the systemic consultancy in Düsseldorf and is also a founding member of a start-up team in Zurich. Her specialty is multidimensional organizational development. She works in systemic consulting (SG), group dynamics and large group moderation (CPF) as well as lecturer at the University of Witten / Herdecke. All texts by Helga Brüggemann.

Onboarding in a new job in 10 steps: from conflict to team spirit [+ checklists]

What to do if at tensions rise despite good preparation? What steps should I take? An overview!

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Use onboarding superglue - 10 docking techniques for new employees

In order for an onboarding process to run as safely as the vast majority of trouble-free flights, interaction quality standards must be observed. Ideally, the quality standards will be reminded of everyone involved before onboarding, no matter how experienced they are with context changes. The following safety precautions for the onboarding trip should be taken.

Even if many managers intuitively influence the relationship dynamics, it can be helpful to be aware of the proven techniques again and again. This is especially true when the pressure increases and with it the likelihood of reacting reflexively. Ten docking techniques have proven particularly useful in integration phases:

1. Swing to a wavelength

In the improvisation theater there is a warm-up exercise with an amazing effect. Pairs are formed. They agree on a topic of conversation, such as whether you can do something together after work. The exercise takes place in two stages. In the first stage there are instructions to consistently reject the suggestions of the interlocutor. It is easy to imagine how faltering the conversation is. The one who tirelessly makes suggestions makes an effort. The interlocutor who rejects the suggestions feels pressured during the conversation. Both feel like they are talking past each other. The wavelength doesn't seem right.

In the second round, the interviewees are asked to respond to all suggestions. This does not mean saying yes to everything. For example, if one person suggests going to a beer garden after work, responding to it could be such that the other person says, “Oh yes, I think it's a good idea to reflect on the day together. I'm already taken tonight. What do you think of it if we have lunch together tomorrow? ”If this docking rule is used to communicate, a relationship dynamic develops that strengthens the feeling of having one wavelength and of understanding one another. This simple docking technique can make collaboration easier from the start, especially when different expectations meet in the onboarding phase. Docking technology

2. My world - your world

In school, in vocational training and at universities, we have learned clear to represent our opinion. Logically structured chains of argument were rewarded with good grades. A both-and was easily interpreted as spongy. The differently trained experts then meet in the professional world. A scientist will argue differently than a humanities scholar. Architects have different aspects in mind when it comes to designing work environments, for example, than psychologists. A conversation atmosphere quickly emerges in which different interaction partners try to convince each other of their point of view.

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This pattern of communication can be recognized by the repeated use of the wording, but ... If one follows the constructivist concept of reality, according to which there is no mistake, but only one perception (quoted from a statement by Haja Molter), many conceptions of reality exist side by side on an equal footing. Neither is right or wrong, all result Sense from the perspective of the respective viewer. A simple docking technique has also proven itself here. Whenever you notice that the two words accumulate yes, but ..., you replace the word with and. In this case too, the effect is amazing. This small change means that different descriptions can always remain side by side. The desire to be right is diminishing. The likelihood of finding a good and constructive solution for both increases.

3. The art of omission

Omission is a supreme discipline of systemic methods. By omission is meant not to react reflexively when a communication offer is made. This technique requires a high degree of self-control. Since there is a space of possibility between stimulus and reaction, the Executive the choice of how it reacts (Frankl, 1985, p. 52 ff.). If you want to take a break between the trigger and the reaction, you have to be able to perceive yourself as a neutral observer from the outside in the situation. Only this distant position makes it possible to make conscious decisions. For example, you can get in touch immediately if a colleague asks for help.

But you can also pause briefly to examine what is feasible and sensible at the given time and under these circumstances. It may well be that you decide to step in again and help out, because it now fits and is coherent. The key point is that you have a choice. The reaction is deliberately taken and is not reflexive. In their book "Don't just do something, stand there", Sandra Janoff and Marwin Weisbord, the founders of the "Future Conferences", show the power of the art of omission (Weisbord and Janoff, 2007, pp. 31–48 ). Especially in phases of context changes, it helps if the participants have an anchor that keeps reminding them of valuable breaks.

It reminds the new executives to stop and consciously take breaks again and again. Some imagine going inside on the balcony, others imagine an eagle looking at the conversation from above. Still others use an object in the room, such as a small globe on the desk or a piece of art on the wall. Those who have mastered the art of omission have equipped their systemic hand luggage with valuable technology that will often be useful in the integration process.

4. Dynamic image of man

In the onboarding phase, you gradually get to know each other better. Both sides form an opinion of each other during the probationary period. In the case of high performance compression, it is understandable that one tries to reduce complexity as much as possible. At the interpersonal level, categorical thinking is one way of dealing with complexity. Classifying interlocutors makes it easier to assess him. Experience helps to classify a person. Condensed empirical knowledge can lead to a good understanding of people. This is helpful in order to be able to adjust to someone quickly. It becomes a trap if the assessment is made categorically and the drawer once chosen is not opened again. In the onboarding process, it is helpful if, in the getting to know each other, knowledge of human nature is accompanied by a dynamic image of human beings. With a rigid image of man, one would Executive think or say: "The colleague is weak in making decisions."

This formulation is an imputation. The colleague is perceived as if he were so. The unspoken message is conveyed that this way of being is set in stone and that it will stay that way. This image of man is rigid and gives the colleague no chance for positive development. The situation is completely different if a colleague's assessment is based on a dynamic image of man. The formulation would read: "My colleague avoided making a decision at the last employee meeting." This formulation describes behavior that is shown in a situational manner. In a different situation, the colleague could behave differently. The dynamic image of man leaves room for positive development. In an integration phase, both sides are well advised to avoid hasty attributions. If specific behaviors are described in feedback discussions, even if they are supported by the Feedback- Donors are perceived as irritating or dysfunctional, a positive development remains possible and all those involved can grow in the integration.

5. Separate what doesn't belong together

It is easy to deal constructively with one another in relaxed conversational situations. There is no disagreement. The assessment of the situation seems to be similar. Perceptions and descriptions of reality differ only minimally from one another. Like two good friends or a well-rehearsed couple, the interlocutors seem to have agreed on a worldview. In this atmosphere it is easy to build on the arguments of the interlocutor. Ideas bubble up and proposed solutions complement each other. The situation is completely different when different views of reality clash. Especially in the onboarding phase, when partners first have to find each other, it is likely that different experiences and interests will be brought with them. If the interlocutors are not careful, an undesirable dynamic can develop in this constellation. What initially began as a factual discussion becomes more and more personal. Emotions associated with interests affect the nature of the Communication. It's getting hotter.

The professional level is left more and more, the more the conversation partner needs to be taken seriously and valued in their point of view and argumentation. Not getting right when you think you are right incites the interlocutor. The struggle for a common solution turns into a struggle. In this situation, if there is no glue in the hand luggage for docking, the conversation can escalate. As soon as you notice this dynamic, you should discipline yourself and not judge too quickly. The confrontation in the conversation does not arise from different interests and views. Conflicts of goals are in Company Part of the game. They become a source of disturbance when explanations are combined with the views that are immediately evaluated.

A pending restructuring of the tasks, for example, would initially be described neutrally using this adhesive. In the next phase, each interlocutor would explain what it means to him. Only at the end would an assessment be made of how good or bad, helpful or disruptive, thoughtful or offensive one feels this measure. Without adhesive, phase one (describe) and phase two (explain) are run through so quickly that the conversation hardens by focusing on assessments. Deviating opinions are insufficiently separated from their evaluation. If you avoid too fast evaluations, first take the time to describe the situation in a neutral manner and only then compare the explanations, will slow down the conversation. This makes it easier to separate person and thing. The likelihood of constructive problem solving increases.

6. The three Ws of constructive feedback

In the onboarding process, the constructive exchange of views is a critical one success. If it is not done enough, the fit must be very good so that the integration can succeed. Ideally, feedback is ritualized, for example in the form of regular consultations and development talks. A constructive three-stage feedback technology acts as an adhesive and should always be used immediately if possible. For example, one employee sets the rule that everyone in the Team are equal, different from their teammates. She gets feedback on interim results from different interlocutors, regardless of the hierarchy, if she deems it necessary. Teammates who understand by equal that such actions are discussed before communicating with others will be irritated. If you wait for the next ritualized exchange round, for example a retrospective15, it can be that irritations add up and intensify the feeling of disturbance.

To avoid this escalation, this step should always be used if necessary: ​​The constructive feedback takes place in three stages. The three Ws denote the phases perception - effect - desire. In the example above, the irritated teammate could report back after this triad:

  1. Perception: "You presented our team results to the director without consulting us first."
  2. Effect: "This behavior irritates me because I feel ignored."
  3. Wish: »I hope that you will speak to me beforehand in the future. What do you think about that?"

This docking technique also avoids pushing the conversation partner into the corner with you messages. The technology makes it possible to stay with yourself and to find a solution without blaming the interlocutor. This docking technique works best when used as soon as irritation occurs.

7. Switch with Boarding Experience (BX)

In the theater we can experience the effect of this technique. actor are masters of this technique. You slip into a role and feel, think and act out of this role. They are masters of switching. A variant of this technology is also used in companies to trace customer experiences as if one were in the skin of such a customer. Customer Experience (CX) is a method of reproducing customer experiences as comprehensively as possible at different online and offline touchpoints of the entire customer journey. In this way, products are designed and developed by the customer. The technique of intense empathy was named the Stanislavski method after its founder. A newcomer can adapt this technique for the context change:

She anticipates Boarding Experience (BX) by imagining typical representatives of the new company with whom she will primarily work, the so-called company persona. The switch is prepared by the new manager collecting all the information that he can learn about the group of people with whom he will mainly work in the future. Based on this collected data, she visualizes the corporate persona. Switching is supported by the stimulation of many sensory channels. What does the manager hear, taste, see and feel when he puts himself in the persona? On the basis of a typical working day, she reproduces the experience as precisely as possible. She imagines where and how this persona lives, how she gets up, prepares herself and has breakfast.

She imagines this person driving to work or theirs Home Office-Takes her job, how she plans her day, how she speaks, walks, eats, when she is satisfied with her job, what occupies her and what she strives for. If the newcomer also succeeds in recalling her own experiences that are similar to the experience and feelings of the persona, the effect of this technique is deepened. Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler further developed the Stanislawski technique into method acting. They differentiate between reliving a past experience (affective memory), the memory of a situation through accompanying sensory impressions (sense memory) and the memory of complex feelings (emotional memory). For example, it can be enlightening when the newcomer remembers the moment when she was the one who welcomed a new employee and integrated it into her team. Anyone who gets involved with this technique will be surprised by its effect. Thinking, feeling and acting changes for the duration of the implementation. The newcomer gains access to another inner world. On this basis, she can adapt very well to the needs and expectations of her main contact persons in the company.

8. Modulate roles depending on the situation

Depending on which mode a manager is in, he or she focuses on other things. As a manager, the focus will be more on strategies and overarching goals, as an expert on the technical context and the data situation, as a team player on collaboration and the people in the team. Depending on the mode, different skills are required. Accordingly, the manager behaves differently. After Virginia Satir, we have choices instead of just reacting to situations. "As soon as someone realizes that all their communication has been learned, they can start to change it if they want to." The new manager can act as an expert, take on a moderating role, give instructions as a supervisor, work as a colleague on a team basis.

In the first weeks of familiarization in particular, conscious handling of the different behavioral modes is an onboarding success factor. Role modulation is not a linear process. It is context sensitive. Taking on the role of expert too early poses risks if it is taken unilaterally and exaggerated. In the first six weeks of familiarization, it is advisable to first record the general conditions and legalities of the new system before you bring in your own expertise and push ahead with innovations. In many companies, Raymond Meredith Belbin's team role model is used to distinguish professional modes. He differentiates between nine team roles: the innovator, pioneer, integrator, doer, observer, team worker, implementer, perfectionist and specialist.

At the beginning of the training period, it is advisable to consciously take on the role of the observer, team worker and integrator before the innovator and specialist role can gain more and more weight. Anyone who has mastered this modulation technique consciously chooses the appropriate mode depending on the context and onboarding phase. For example, an IT expert consciously chooses the role of coordinator in the first few weeks in the new company. He invites to meetings, welcomes everyone and moderates the discussion from a neutral position. As soon as sufficient trust has been built up, the stronger weighting of the expert and driver role is paved the way.

9. Build cocreative momentum

Many new managers are expected to bring a breath of fresh air to the company. In extreme cases, they should form the spearhead of a transformation process together with other innovators. Against the background of the Group's strategic realignment, Bosch is hiring, for example, thousands of employees to develop the technology group into an IT company. If a company succeeds in quickly building momentum in the desired direction, such a transformation process will get going. Where should a single newcomer get the energy for the swing? To explore this, companies should ask themselves three questions:

  1. To what extent is the company prepared not only to record and reflect on customer feedback, but also to take action promptly? (Feedback culture)
  2. How pronounced is the willingness and ability of the employees to consistently take the customer perspective? (Empathy)
  3. To what extent are rapid prototyping and co-creation used to develop solutions? (Speed)

The new manager can gain a lot of strength and energy from co-creation with other innovators. This doesn't just mean colleagues who are new to the company. It refers to all employees who do pioneering work. A newcomer who quickly becomes a Network of company-experienced and new employees has created good starting conditions for successful onboarding. Whether in an informal peer group or an officially nominated task force, the newcomer can reinvent the future together with like-minded people.

10. De-escalation through reset

This last docking technique is relevant if you have missed the right time to use a superglue. Usually the Achilles' heel was hit unintentionally. A conversation partner unintentionally presses an invisible point on the other party. An emotional reaction arises promptly. This reflex is usually surprising for both conversation partners. This process often runs so quickly that the cause can only be traced and analyzed afterwards. Working to mitigate or prevent such a response is a lifelong learning task.

The faster way is a constructive handling of the Achilles' heel, which every person has in his personal form. The more energy is used to prevent something, the more energy is tied up. It is therefore energy-saving and more effective to acquire awareness of reflex reactions as early as possible. This perception needs to be trained. Situations in which feelings are only moderately stimulated are particularly suitable for this training. The more emotions are in the game, the more the options for action decrease. In extreme cases, they can cause archaic reactions. Depending on the personality type, only the options remain - fight - escape - freeze. The conversation dynamics escalate. What can a manager do when it has come this far? The adhesive reset is used.

As at the beginning of hypnotic coaching, the brain is put into an alpha state. The technique is simple and works in seconds: the person whose Achilles heel was hit rolls their eyes upwards as soon as they perceive the foaming emotions. She takes a deep breath. As she exhales slowly, she deliberately lowers her eyes, which she closes when she has reached the bottom of the rolling motion. The reset technique is completed with three deep breaths. With every breath she deepens the relaxation that occurs immediately. If the situation allows, the manager can still use a tool that they always have with them: the index finger. She holds her index finger across the eyes at a distance of approx. 20 cm and fixes it while rolling the eyes. After using this reset technique, there is a high probability of having access to a variety of behavioral strategies again.

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