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Rejection after Organ transplantation

When an organ gets transplanted from one body to another, the risk of rejection is one of the main concerns. The breakthrough in organ transplantation was when medication that suppresses the reaction of the immune system which causes rejection was introduced.
There is a word in German called Fremdkörper (in Latin Corpus alienum). Literally this means “Strange Body”. It refers to something that does not belong.  When applied on people, it feels like an aggressive word because it underlines us versus them. A new employee can be considered to be a Fremdkörper or can feel like it. If this is a case, the process of integration has failed and rejection has started.

The Risk of Rejection

Every time a new employee joins a company, there’s a risk of rejection. And the cause of this rejection can lie with both the new employee and the company. This is especially true for senior employees and executives.

We seem to underestimate the effort a company has to make to integrate a new executive. And at the same time we seem to overestimate the employee’s capacity to integrate.

That’s a conundrum. So should an employee simply adapt to the new surroundings? Should (s)he blend in with the crowd, disappear, take on the same colour? That would be a pity because someone has been hired for who (s)he is and what (s)he can do. If (s)he were to adapt, (s)he might lose the very reason why (s)he was hired and lose his or her value for the company.
The point is that you can avoid this rejection before and after an employment contract has been signed. Here is how.

What the Employer can do before the contract is signed

  • Think about the company’s immune system. Analyse how rejection could take place and what the employee could do to avoid rejection. Talk about this. Take away if possible certain issues that would stimulate rejection.
    Analyse previous early exits of people that have entered the company to see what was the cause of that. Talk to people who have ‘survived’ and are still there. What made them successful?
  •  Take the time to explain what the company stands for. Focus on values, beliefs, culture. Be clear about what should be changed and what is to be kept. Define the mission both in a generic and a specific way.
  • Be very clear about the role the new employee has to play. What do you expect from him or her?  Inform him or her about your reasons to hire.
  • Be explicit about the psychological contract. Ask what the  candidate expects. Try to find out what his or her doubts are.
  • Give a realistic job preview. This is not easy. Even if you tell people how hard the job is going to be, some people do not listen.
  • Be clear on what you plan to do when there are issues. Invite the employee to be open about any doubt, worry or question (s)he has.
  • Allow for customisation. I-deals are a way to sculpt the employment according to the needs and strengths of the employee.

What the Employee can do before the contract is signed

  • Take the time to discover the company before you sign the contract. Talk to people. Try and meet your team before you enter. Gather information.  Check your network. Browse the net. Ask questions.
  • Talk about your own values and check how they fit with the company’s.
  • Be explicit about the psychological contract and about what you expect from the company.

What the Employer can to after the contract has been signed

  •  Give the new employee the time to discover the company. Don’t overload him from day one with work. Draft the induction program in such a way that he can appreciate the company in all its qualities. Gradual induction will be profitable. Even if you are in a hurry, socialisation cannot be compressed and summarised in a powerpoint
  • Check on how the new employee feels. Ask about the surprises. Try to find out what the new employee worries about.
  • Confirm the reasons why he or she has been hired. Do not ask the employee to adapt, but give him hints on how he can integrate.
  • Clear some of the obstacles by communicating clearly why the new employe has been hired. Especially for senior level employees it is paramount to make sure the organisation knows what the mission is.
  • Talk about culture, values and expectations.
  • Give feedback, not only about achievements but also about the integration process.
  • Make sure everyone knows that you support the new employee
  • Monitor for rejection processes. Intervene accordingly.
  • Don’t be blind. If the employee makes mistakes, or worse, shows contempt for the company he is working with, you have to take measures. Ultimately, you might need to stop the employment contract before damage is done to the company.

What the Employee can do once the contract has been signed

  • Seek feedback. Ask questions. There is nothing wrong with asking people how you are doing.
  • Express your concerns if you have any.
  • If there’s a breach of the psychological contract, talk about it.
  • Don’t belief everything that has been written in the book “the first 90 days”.
  • Don’t act as if you are only temporarily here but take a long term perspective.
  • Show respect for people and their past. Don’t be arrogant about how other companies did better. Try to understand why things are the way they are.
  • If you need to act with a sense of urgency, talk about it. Be transparent.
  • Remain yourself. Don’t adapt. Don’t change. You have been hired with a reason. But if you feel your own style and personality has frictions with the culture, do not ignore that. These could be signs of rejection: either you reject the company or the company is rejecting you.
  • Be yourself. It’s the only thing you can do well from the beginning. Don’t be pushed into becoming someone else.

The importance of managing integration and rejection

Hiring someone from outside is a big decision. The person involved probably leaves a job behind to come to your company. That is a risk. But the company takes a risk as well. Therefore the risk of rejection, which is a mutual risk, should be managed well. The cost of failure by rejection is too high.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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