Integrating New Members into a Team

I worked for the national park service at George Washington’s birthplace for three years. One of the challenges of working at a national park is that the staff is constantly changing as park rangers move between the parks. Each park has its own standard operating procedures, method of operation and norms. These all have to fall within the broader national park guidelines but the individual park has choice over what exactly the rules will be. This means that as new staff members come in they have a very diverse set of expectations and experiences. Their opinions and hopes are shaped by their past experiences and they cultures that they have previously experienced. This can create conflict or failed expectations for the staff.

The supervisors at the park did several things to alleviate this potential problem before it began. During a new staff members orientation they went over the SOP’s in detail with the staff member to allow them to become familiar with them. This allowed the staff member to begin to shape or reshape their expectations of their new job and their new roles. It also made sure that they knew what was expected of them. This allows the new staff member to be more confident as they assume their new role. Another thing that they did that I liked was having the new staff member shadow several more experience park rangers. The new staff member could get an idea of how others went about the job. Both of the procedures outlined above helped the new staff members to fit into the new system with minimal problems and interruptions while making the new staff member more comfortable.

These steps are important for any diverse team. There need to be steps taken to define roles and expectations. If this does not happen they new members while not know what is expected of them which can leave them feeling uncertain. This can lead to needless conflict that disrupts the team. When these steps are taken the potential for conflict is reduced. This is especially important for teams that have rotating membership, like the example given above. The new team member does not know how the team has been operating, so they need to be brought up to speed so to speak.

I especially liked the step where the new staff member shadowed the more experienced members. This allowed them to discuss what they were doing and way. This gave them more rounded experience than if they just read the role expectations and duties. It gives them a more rounded experience as well as more confidence.


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