Cakes in the Kitchen!

One of the challenges for an Interim Manager is quickly catching on to your new organisation’s norms or culture. Knowing what to do at lunchtime, which football results to keep quiet about, and whether to buy the cakes on your birthday, can help you become part of the team, or set you apart.

I recently started a new assignment within days of my birthday, and I judged it best to keep quiet (not ‘cos of my age, honest!). But, one morning, a colleague sent round the usual e-mail, on ‘our’ birthday, and so I piped up and joined in eating cake!

“It’s my birthday – Cakes in the Kitchen!”

Now the birthday coincidence shouldn’t be a surprise, as the laws of probability state that for a group of more than 23 people it is a likelihood that 2 of them will share a birthday. But what happened next completely took me by surprise! My team somehow got a signed birthday card and bunch of flowers to me by lunch-time! That speaks volumes about the values and culture of my new colleagues, and how important birthdays are to them (and now I wish I’d brought in cake!)

Are there proven, effective ways of quickly catching on to cultural norms? or will there always be birthday (and other, less pleasant) surprises when you start work with a new team?

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