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Surviving the Transplant at Work

Corey, the Minnesota Native Says...
Whether we want to admit it or not, we Minnesotans typically see transplants as terribly frank, in-your-face, aggressive, and argumentative.  Some of them can be downright scary.  How can we Minnesotans work with someone like that?  

Jerilyn, the East Coast Transplant Says...
Let me try to help you poor people.  Here’s some guidelines; call it a lifeline.  You CAN survive!  We’re NOT [all] monsters!

If your Transplant is interrupting you and others all the time:
We Transplants probably don’t know it’s a problem.  This is just what we’re used to, this is how we normally talk.  It’s certainly not personal and it doesn’t mean we don’t value what you have to say.  Really.  For example, most East Coasters actually expect you to interrupt back. Go ahead and jump in mid-sentence and cut them off!   Now, if you just can’t stomach that approach, are you okay with holding up your hand in a stop sign?  How about lifting up your eyebrows while you’re holding up your hand and leaning forward?  These are signals to the Transplant that you want to talk.  They may feel aggressive to you, but give it a try and see if it works.    

If your Transplant is brisk and business-like and isn’t even trying to be nice:
We are likely so focused at the task at hand or our larger goal that it has never even occurred to us how we're coming across. In fact, we probably have no clue that too much brisk and “business-like” behavior would ever be construed as a problem!  Do your best to engage the Transplant in small talk. Share something about yourself with them that they can ask about on an ongoing basis. Think of this as “being nice” training wheels!

If your Transplant is making decisions left and right without consulting with you:
Decisiveness is a virtue for many transplants.  Asking for input might feel to the Transplant like they're being weak or wishy-washy - bad things for many people.  You’re going to have to practice being frank here and actually insist on providing your input.  Make sure the person knows you and your colleagues see consultation as a necessity, not a nicety.  

If your Transplant approaches conversations as if they’re arguments:
For East Coasters in particular (as well as in many other cultures), high volume and intensity can be our hallmarks. Try not to be scared.  Again, it is NOT personal.  It doesn’t mean that the person actually feels as intense as they sound. In fact, they are likely just testing ideas, looking for arguments and critiques. Be forewarned - if you aren’t able to match their volume and intensity - and certainly if you aren’t able to debate them - they might see you as weak and ineffective.  At least find a compromise - use your indoor voice but do cultivate your debating skills.  Otherwise, you’re going to lose every time.  And that’s not good for either of you.

If your Transplant won’t stop asking you to socialize outside of work:
They don’t get it. Your dance card is filled. You have a boat load of relatives clamoring for you to come to graduation parties, birthday parties, and all kinds of gatherings. You have a cabin you disappear to on weekends. You have a small group of close-knit friends you have to fit into your schedule. You do NOT have the time or the energy to cultivate new friendships - and especially with people so different from you. The Transplant won’t pick up on this the first time, nor the second time, maybe not even the third time. You may just need to be (gasp!) direct with them. Say your social calendar is swamped and that you hardly have time to pick up a book (or substitute another solo type of activity - but make it solo). It may take repetition, but they’ll eventually get it and back down.  

After reading all this let’s face it - you may not be up to the challenge of dealing with these annoying things - and yet there might be no other choice.  Sorry to break the news to you, but you may just have to take on training the Transplant so you can better deal with him or her.  Check out this advice on “Taming the Transplant at Work."   

Get even more tips and approaches to help you in the Minnesotan’s Corner of this website.

© Jerilyn Veldof and Corey Bonnema