Succeed at a New Job by Disengaging From the Old Job

Topic(s): job performance, motivation, recruiting, selection
Publication: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Article: Disengagement in Work-Role Transitions
Authors: C. Niessen, C. Binnewies, J. Rank
Reviewed by: Lauren A. Wood

Employees are no longer linked to an organization for life, and as a result, there has been an increase in job change in recent years. Researchers studying how employees adjust to job changes have suggested that in order to succeed, the new employee must detach or disengage from the previous job and organization. This is especially critical when the employee is psychologically attached to their previous work place or work role – as is typically the case when the employee has worked in their previous job for a long time.


Results from the current study reveal that the more psychologically attached a new employee is to their old work-role, the less motivated they are to pursue learning in the new position and the less they feel they fit with the new company. However, when an employee actively disengages from their previous job-role, the employee experiences greater perceptions of fit and is more motivated to engage in learning on the new job.


So, if you are starting in a new organization or a new position, actively work to disengage yourself from your previous organization and past job responsibilities. Instead, concentrate on learning the new organization’s culture, climate, and your role in helping the company meet its goals. Organizations can aid new employees’ adjustment by ensuring that they select employees that will be a good fit in the company. One way this can be accomplished is by use of a realistic job preview, which is when organization provide applicants with an unadulterated description of the job that highlights the negatives as well as the positives.


Neissesn, C., Binnewies, C., & Rnak, J. (2010). Disengagement in work-role transitions. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83, 659-715.