3 min read

In the literature on newcomer assimilation, experts and academics talk about the importance of relationships. Human learning occurs in community.

Ok, enough with the academic jargon. What does this mean? How does it work?

Let’s assume that your organization has a well-defined set of values and, unlike some organizations, takes them seriously. You want your newcomers to adopt these values—or at least, if they find out they are incompatible with them, to know this upfront.

There are two concerns that we must address when thinking about newcomer assimilation. First, we want to make sure that our values (and by that I mean the values of the company) are protected and advanced through the new people we bring in. But we also want to make sure that we don’t violate the values of those who join our team. That would be immoral, tantamount to a kind of brainwashing that seeks conformity with no regard to the unique life experience of the individual.

So, first, let’s address this question of relationships and value generation. Why is it that the experts tell us that relationships are important when considering a new set of values? The answer lies in the power of a healthy relationship. When a relationship is healthy it pulls us. It motivates us to maintain that relationship. We want to belong, to be a part of the group, to be loved and accepted and confirmed. It is uncomfortable and debilitating to be a part of a group to which you feel no commonality.

For years people have pondered why the politicians get to Washington and lose all the values they campaigned on. The answer lies in relationships. They become a part of that group inside the beltway. They want to belong, to be admired, to be accepted. That relational pull causes them to abandon the values of the group to which they belonged (the voters) and adopt the values of their new group (the political elite).

Abraham Maslow identified the desire to belong as one of the most basic of human motivations. It is powerful.

And that’s why this must not become a mere technique or tool we use for the good of the company. That is immoral. We have to wield this tool carefully, knowing that its misuse can hurt people. We must protect the sacred uniqueness of the individual.

Relationships are crucial to newcomer assimilation. They help us sort things out. Our ideas come into contact with the ideas of others and this forces us to choose between options of how we envision our world. Relationships challenge us. They make us think.

So, using relationships as a strategy to help newcomers assimilate into the organization can be a blessing not only for the organization but also for the individual. We come to understand ourselves better through relationships. Fuzzy ideas get sharpened. Indecision gets decided, and all this through interaction with others in relationships.

At some point, the newcomer realizes he or she must decided where their loyalty lies. Do they fit into this new group? Are their deepest values compatible with the organization’s values?

Someone once said, “No man is an island.” We think in community. We form our values in community, in relationship with others.

Use relationships to help your newcomers discover their genuine values, to communicate the values of the organization, and to see if the two are compatible.


Photo by Free-Photis. Photo available at Pixabay under CC0 license.

Portrait of Dr. Waddell

Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.