The Dos and Don’ts of New Employee Orientation, According to ‘Fringe’

It’s the start of fall, and we all know what that means: new TV!

I’ve been most looking forward to the return of FOX’s Fringe, a fantastic sci-fi series from J. J. Abrams that just premiered its fourth season. The show follows the members of a secret division of the FBI that investigates cases of fringe science and other weirdness, including parallel universes. FBI agent Olivia Dunham, mad scientist Walter Bishop, and his son Peter are the main players here; but at the end of last season, Peter vanished from existence (it’s a long story), and now no one remembers him. Enter Lincoln Lee, another FBI agent who, by the second episode, becomes the newest member of the Fringe team.

Lincoln joins the team because his partner is killed in a fringe-science-related crime, and he wants to be part of the investigation. It’s not the way most people start a new job (except if they’re TV characters, of course), but the first episode of the season sheds some light onto how a company should welcome a new employee—and how a new employee should adapt to the workplace.

Here’s a rundown of how Lincoln and the Fringe team handled new employee orientation:

What New Employees Should Do

  • Show initiative, be proactive, but don’t overstep your boundaries. This will depend on the company, but in most cases, wait until you’ve settled in at your new job before suggesting any significant changes to the way things are done.

How did Fringe do? When his partner is killed and Fringe Division arrives on the scene, Lincoln wants to be part of the investigation but is denied. His response is to track Olivia’s license plate and sneak into the Fringe lab, but as one might expect, this doesn’t go over so well. Later, Lincoln argues with Olivia about some of the Division’s policies, declaring them immoral. Luckily, his initiative leads to him joining the Fringe team (this is a TV show, after all), but he took risks that could have easily cost him his FBI job, not to mention damage his new relationship with Fringe Division.

  • Seth Gabel (Lincoln)

    Learn about the corporate culture and the people you’ll be working with. Getting a feel for your new environment will help you fit in, as well as find people you can rely on for questions, advice, and support.

    How did Fringe do? Because Lincoln sneaks into Fringe Division, his introduction to the company culture is a bit rocky. But after enduring a few awkward situations, such as finding Walter hiding in a water tank, Lincoln observes more of the team dynamic and becomes comfortable enough to ask questions and get to know everyone.

  • Do your job well, be friendly, and stay open-minded. Through your actions, let your boss know he or she made the right decision in hiring you.

How did Fringe do? Lincoln had a few rough patches to start, but by helping solve his first case with the team—and by keeping an open mind about transparent-skinned killers and parallel worlds—he has started to earn their trust and shown them how valuable he can be.

What Employers Should Do

  • Make your new employee feel comfortable and appreciated. Introduce him to his coworkers and to the company culture, include him in office chatter, and let him know whom he can approach with questions.

How did Fringe do? Angered by Lincoln’s meddling in the investigation, Olivia doesn’t introduce him to the others or give him any details on the case. However, as Olivia begins to trust Lincoln, she answers his questions: explaining Walter’s mad-scientist ways, opening up about losing her own partner to a strange death … and showing Lincoln the bridge between parallel universes.

  • John Noble (Walter), Joshua Jackson (Peter), and Anna Torv (Olivia)

    Spend time training your new employee. A smooth transition will be easier both for you and your new hire.

    How did Fringe do? The team sends Lincoln into the field with almost no information about the investigation, and then later doesn’t prepare him at all for meeting Olivia’s doppelganger at the bridge to the other world. Fortunately, Lincoln is quick enough on his feet to take all these surprises in stride, but Fringe Division should have better guided him.

  • Recognize your new employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Praise him when he does well, and offer him help and constructive criticism when he’s struggling.

How did Fringe do? Lincoln demonstrates his investigative skills by piecing together clues and helping solve the case. In return, Olivia heightens his security clearance so that she can answer more of his questions about Fringe Division and take him to the other universe. Though she (rightfully) yells at him at first for sneaking into headquarters,Lincoln ultimately proves himself to be good at what he does, and Olivia recognizes his strengths accordingly.

Do you watch Fringe? If so, how do you think Lincoln handled his “orientation”? What are some other tips for new employees and for the companies who have hired them?

Image credit to Gage Skidmore and ewen and donabel. Main image is a low-res image from YouTube.

Rachel Hamsmith

When not writing for the blog, Rachel is a data entry specialist at QLP. She spends most of her free time consuming a variety of geeky TV shows, movies, and books, as well as funny cat videos and other Internet oddities. Otherwise, she moonlights as an editor for a literary magazine and tries to spend as much quality time as she can with friends and family. You can also connect with Rachel on Google+.


  1. JPorretto

    Very good points Rachel! I can’t help but think I’ve had at least a little to do with the motivation behind this piece… hopefully its because I’ve done well and that this isn’t a “hey, moron, you should’ve done it like this” type deal. =)

    • Rachel

      For sure, you and everybody at QLP have made my new employee experience a smooth one! It’s definitely not a case of the “hey moron” thing, haha. So yeah, you done good. 🙂

  2. Jill Tooley

    Amazing blog, Rachel! “Fringe” is a show I’ll have to check out…I didn’t even know what it was about prior to reading your post, but it sounds like it’s right up my alley. J.J. Abrams has been impressing me a lot lately and I have a strong interest in the supernatural/sci-fi/fantasy genres!

    It’s not always easy to accommodate a new employee, and it’s not easy to BE a new employee, either. As an employer, it’s crucial to find a balance when the time comes to train. I’ve had simple jobs that took days of training and I’ve had more difficult jobs that didn’t provide nearly enough training. Ultimately, the new employee should always let someone know if they feel they’ve got the hang of it sooner (or if it’s the opposite). Most employers are willing to work less or more with a new hire to get them up to speed!

    I loved your third point in the employee section: “Do your job well, be friendly, and be open-minded.” That’s so important! Even introverts can get used to a new environment if they make an effort. I speak from experience! 😀

    • Rachel

      It’s such a great show! I do admit the first season is a bit bland; I watched through the first half of season 1 in real time before giving up on it, but then when I started hearing lots of good things about it, I came back and marathoned the rest and fell in love. 🙂 Things get really good once the show starts to move away from the standalone procedural stories and embraces its own mythology.

      Agreed about the training thing! Like you said, finding that balance with training can be hard, but it really makes a difference for both employee and employer if it’s done right (or wrong, for that matter). And I’m right there with you about being introverted and fitting into a new environment. No matter the person, a positive attitude and willingness to talk and be friendly can really make the transition into a new workplace more comfortable. 🙂

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    One day I will watch Fringe. It’s still going to be a long time down the road, but it’s finally cemented itself on “things I will watch eventually, really” list. It’s right after Lost.

    The point that resonates most with me is “Make your new employee feel comfortable and appreciated” from your employers section. I’ve had past jobs (not this one!!!!) where after initial training, my supervisors disappeared and I felt very intimidated to approach them with questions. It made me always second guess my work and even wonder if it was right.

    Fantastic post, Rachel! 🙂

    • Rachel

      Hooray!! Just the fact that it made it onto your “watch later” list makes me very happy. 🙂

      I’ve had past jobs like that too, and that intimidation about asking questions and second-guessing yourself can be really stressful. Luckily we’ve both gotten out of work environments like that and found a much better one! 🙂

  4. amy

    Great post, Rachel! I’ve never watched Fringe, but I’ve known other viewers who love it so I may just have to check it out!

    You made some excellent tips here and all of which I think QLP did exceptionally well, at least in my opinion. I’m so thankful to Mandy and Amanda for making me feel welcome during my first few weeks here. It was kind of awkward coming in during the early afternoon, since I was still in school, and everyone else was busy working away, but they always chatted with me and made me feel less like an “outsider” 🙂

    That’s my biggest tip to any new employee, go to every company-sponsored event as well as talk to people. It’s weird and awkward at first, but it gets better and you’ll make some awesome friends in the process!

    • Rachel

      Totally agreed on all accounts! Especially about going to company-sponsored events and talking to people. It has to be a two-way street: the employer (including coworkers) can reach out to new employees, but the new employee needs to reach out as well! Participating in conversations and company events–and, at QLP at least, bringing food to the office!–is a great way to do that.

  5. Jen

    Awesome post Rachel! I’ve never watched Fringe, but this blog has peaked my interest for sure. I like watching shows after they have been out for a few seasons first (so I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time), so this could be my next big show! I’m kinda psyched now.

    • Rachel

      I’m psyched that you’re psyched! It’s a really great sci-fi show, I hope you like it if you do end up watching it. 🙂 As I said to Jill above, give it time to find its legs–much of the first season is slow-going, but it gets really good as it goes into the second season. But it’ll be easier to get through the less exciting stuff when you can watch everything without waiting a week between episodes. 🙂

  6. Amanda

    Great post Rachel–you’ve gotten almost everyone, including myself, interested in checking out this show! You drew some awesome comparisons here. I think two of the most important things is to make the new person feel welcome, and give them solid training. That way they can feel comfortable talking to their new co-workers, asking for help, and be confident that they’re doing their work like they’re supposed to.

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