When I first started at HORNE, I was based in the Ridgeland, Mississippi, office. It wasn’t long after that I was assigned to a project in New York and after being there for almost four years, I received a call informing me that I would be moving back to Ridgeland. I began to think of all the fun times I had in New York but quickly became overwhelmed with the task of moving in a fairly short amount of time.
Picking up and moving on short notice isn’t always the easiest thing to do. For most, it is a bittersweet feeling. I thought back to my first day in New York and all the anxiety I had not knowing anyone, the new project, new people and the new office. What would they think of me? How will I adjust? Will I make friends? Will I be a good leader? Then, my mind immediately shifted to coming back to the Ridgeland office and the same thoughts began. How will I re-engage? Will I still have a sense of belonging? What will my new project be? After all, I was still in a New York state of mind.
After the initial shock of moving back wore off, I turned on some music and began to pack. I organized each box and labeled them with a number. I even made a list of box numbers and what was in each one. I thought this would minimize confusion once the boxes arrived at my destination. On the Friday I arrived in Jackson, I received notification that all my boxes had been delivered. When I went to the storage unit, I opened the lock, lifted the door and saw that all my boxes were bent, torn, smooshed, and practically demolished. I began to get upset, but then I stopped myself. I started telling myself not to assume the worst; everything may still be ok and not to jump to conclusions.
Still, super anxious about the unknowns of being back in Ridgeland, I had a choice. I could be super sad and feel like everything was starting on a terrible note OR I could choose to once again, not assume the worst. The Ridgeland office had once been a place that felt like my second home, but now it was making me feel so anxious and scared. I had been away for four years and wasn’t sure how I would adjust.
Trying to establish a sense of belonging sometimes is a challenge and harder when you see a bunch of new faces and even some team members you have known for years but haven’t been around in a long time. I worried about how to re-engage and what my first steps should be. I hesitated to be as open and dare to lead in a place that I hadn’t been in quite some time.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I must take the first step and be more engaging with team members, both new and existing if I wanted to feel that same sense of belonging. As a team member, management, or partner, we must not forget that we all feel vulnerable at times. We get caught up in our work that we forget to remain engaged. Re-engaging isn’t easy. I must do my part to create a sense of belonging that I also wish to have. Once I began to re-engage and speak to team members daily, I would find common ground to initiate conversation and I began to feel more connected. I quickly saw how my sense of belonging was growing. I was talking to team members and they were talking to me. I could have come back into the office with my guard up, but I chose not to and I’m so glad I didn’t. Now, I look for every opportunity to talk with new team members, new faces or existing ones to help them build their sense of belonging.
Are you facing a new situation like I was? Nervous about the unknown? Caught up in the every day you forget to engage? I encourage you to take a small step and engage faster just by having a conversation. Say hello. Or if you are the experienced team member, be sure to welcome new faces with friendly chatter and a smile.