You're new on the job, and you're screwing up. do you realize it? probably not. by the time you learn that you're in trouble, it's usually too late to save yourself: The damage has been done. To prevent such damage, you need to "read" yourself and to understand how others respond to you, says Lois P. Frankel, author of the best unsung business book of 1997, Overcoming Your Strengths. Here are three of her favorite tactics to make you more aware of you.
Look for mirrors. Make it easy for your boss, coworkers, and subordinates to give you feedback: Ask for it. The more "mirrors" you have in your new workplace, the greater your chance of gaining an accurate sense of how others perceive you. Just be prepared to take unpleasant news gracefully. "Don't get defensive," Frankel says. "It's not other people's job to tell you how to correct your performance."
Beware of your strengths. Typically, when people start to feel that a new work situation is turning sour, they do the worst thing possible: They fall back on what they do best. "The skills that brought you this far may no longer be adequate. You need to develop new ways of approaching problems."
Let go of your past. Doesn't your new coworker remind you of that micromanaging boss from your last job? Stop. If you're not careful, the ghosts of jobs past will destroy new relationships. Avoid what Frankel calls the "halo effect": "Don't think, 'You remind me of someone, so I'll interact with you the same way I did with that person.' Give people a chance to be themselves."
Coordinates" $25. Overcoming Your Strengths: 8 Reasons Why Successful People Derail and How to Get Back on Track. Harmony Books, 800-793-2665; www.randomhouse.com
A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.