Dear Help Desk

I am a graduate and have just started working for a City firm. When I arrived, I was nervous but keen to please. However, after my first week, I feel my enthusiasm and confidence are fast diminishing. On my first day, I was shown my desk and then just left for a couple of hours to my own devices. Nobody talked to me and when it came to lunch-time, everyone disappeared without me. I have tried talking to my colleagues, but they don't seem to have time for me. For instance, when I asked a colleague where certain files were kept, she practically bit my head off. Every day I think to myself, "today I'll go in with a different attitude" but no matter what I do, I just don't seem to fit in. Is this behaviour normal?


Terry Gillan, course tutor, Institute of Personnel & Development

First it would be useful to know what usually happens when someone joins the organisation, particularly in your department. Is this lack of induction typical of the whole place or just your section? It may be a temporary "blip" because of work pressure. Either way, your new employer is wasting a valuable opportunity to motivate and develop you. It may be their fault but the key to a successful solution lies with you. Speak to your immediate boss - politely and positively. Explain that you are keen to contribute and will be able to do so sooner when you understand how everything works. At the same time politely, but above all persistently, badger your colleagues into allowing you to help them.

Dr Raj Persaud, Consultant Psychiatrist at London's Maudsley Hospital

Don't take this personally - what is happening probably tells you more about the institution than the fact there is something wrong with you. Use the fact that your job description and line management seems rather loose to your advantage - seize the opportunity to structure your job as you would like it to be. Befriending secretaries is always a good idea, they probably know lots about what is really going on. Above all, see this as a challenge that has been set to test your resilience and ingenuity.

Ann Speirs, psychotherapist at International Psychotherapy Associates

An office environment is complicated and much that happens has nothing to do with you. Your colleague may be "biting your head off" because she is under pressure, or had a bad experience with your predecessor. Office hierarchies and alliances have a tremendous effect on how the newcomer is treated. Approach every incident as a valuable learning experience. Find a mentor as quickly as possible. Look at what this situation is teaching you about your own behaviour under stress, and assess your strengths and weaknesses. Decide what you want to change and get to work, with help if necessary.

Denise Robertson, agony aunt, ITV's `This Morning'

Being a newcomer is difficult, but the rest of the staff may also feel uneasy. Perhaps they bend the rules a little. Will the newcomer rat on them? The worst thing the new recruit can do is turn tail. Set a date by which things must change; knowing misery is finite really helps. If someone is less than helpful point out that you are new and need help. Recognising their superior knowledge will make them feel safer. Give these people time. If eventually they behave well, you'll be glad you made the effort. If it turns out they are incapable of civilised behaviour, recognise that the defect lies in them, and move on.

Compiled by Carmen Fielding

If you would like expert advice about a work problem, write to Helpdesk, City+, Features, The Independent, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax: 0171-293 2182 or e-mail