DARWIN'S theory of natural selection is commonly summed up as the survival of the fittest. This theory suggests that nature selects organisms which are better suited to the current environment to survive and reproduce, hence allowing only the fittest to prevail.

Harsh as it may seem, this theory applies in the working world as well.

Be prepared

Entering a new workplace poses many challenges: getting used to a new culture, integrating with different colleagues and dealing with the demands of a new job.

These prospects may seem daunting initially, especially if you are a reserved person who is uncomfortable about stepping out of your comfort zone.

However, with the right mindset, change can be a positive experience and the transition to a new workplace an enjoyable and insightful process.

For this to happen, you need to understand why cultivating the skills to adapt to a new environment is important.

Change management is becoming an increasingly important issue. With volatile financial markets resulting in the restructuring of many organisations, it is crucial to learn how to alter your strategy and respond to these changes.

Many people enter a new job solely concerned about coping with the job scope and ignoring other aspects such as developing relationships with colleagues and adapting to the culture.

Consider the example of an analyst from a small fund management firm with flexible hours and lunch breaks, where members of the same department always eat together, joining a global bank where relationships among colleagues are less personal and hours are more stringent.

If the analyst is not prepared for such an immense change in his working environment, it is likely that he will be unhappy and feel that his colleagues are very unfriendly, when in actual fact they are merely doing what they are used to.

On the other hand, if the analyst had thought about the kind of environment he may face and how to respond to it, he will feel less upset and not allow it to affect his performance in any way.

Be proactive

Change can occur in two ways - as a response to a situation or as a choice. Most people end up responding to adverse environments rather then pre-empting situations and acting in a manner that makes the best of them.

Let us assume the analyst has always been working independently and has greater control over making decisions. But now he has to report to a manager who wants to be consulted on most matters.

If the analyst has not researched the working culture of his new firm, he may end up feeling restricted. This situation may provoke him to make unauthorised decisions or cause him to perform below par.

If he had embraced the change positively, he could have discussed the scope of his job in detail with his manager prior to starting work. His manager may have even been willing to give him more leeway, resulting in a happier outcome for the analyst.

This example illustrates how important it is to act rather than to react. Every environment has its unique strong points. The key to successfully adapting to a new environment is not to completely abandon the old but to identify and consciously select which of your old habits will be useful in your new environment.

The trickiest part of successfully integrating into a new environment is handling human relationships successfully. Though you want to create a support system of friends, you do not want to come across as over-eager and insincere when you are first settling in.

Be honest and warm, and you will come across as genuine to your colleagues. Establish strong relationships with your managers, as they are the ones who will help you when you face difficult situations.

Enter a new job with an open mind and welcome the idea of learning from different cultures and people.

Learning to embrace change in your working environment and treating it as a learning experience will lead to greater personal growth and happiness.