After all the effort you put into establishing a good relationship with your boss, it doesn’t seem fair that you get a new one and have to start all over. Even if the outgoing boss spent time “breaking in” the new boss—which, let’s face it, is rare—your new boss didn’t witness your past performance or benefit from it.
If you can, find out what brought about the change in management, so you can plan how to proceed. Sometimes, it’s obvious—your boss was promoted or left the company. But it could also be due to conflicts with superiors or dissatisfaction with how your team was performing.
Instead of bombarding the new boss with an overview of your accomplishments, start by paying attention to the new boss’ work style, communication preferences, expressed expectations, and information-sharing patterns. See what you can glean about the boss’ personality. Is he or she insecure? Confident? Energetic? Smart? Needy? Bossy? Clueless?
As soon as you realistically can (given the busyness that a new boss usually faces), arrange for a one-on-one meeting to discuss expectations and start building your relationship. Ask how you can be of most help during the transition. Find out what kinds of decisions the boss wants to be involved in, and when you can or should handle decisions on your own. Don’t criticize your colleagues or you’ll undermine your own credibility. Be straightforward, and don’t brag.
Aim to keep meeting thereafter, if only for fifteen minutes a month. Even if it hasn’t been explicitly asked of you, it may be a good idea to provide periodic updates on project status or other work you’re doing.
One possible exception to the meet-as-soon-as-possible scenario: When the new boss is a senior external hire, you may want to hold off for a while, as the “brown nosers” line up to get time with the boss. While they appear overeager, let your boss know what you do and then do it. As your boss starts to develop a plan of action, you can alert him about your willingness to serve as a resource.
Whatever you do, don’t make yourself miserable with comparisons to your old boss. Your new boss will likely have a different way of doing things, different priorities, different pet peeves, and different ways of treating people. Be as supportive as you can. By helping your boss get up to speed, you’re demonstrating an interest in his/her needs and at the same time demonstrating your value to the team.
What worked for you the last time you had to adjust to a new boss?
Naomi Karten is a writer and speaker who draws from her background in both psychology and IT. Naomi's recent books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions and Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. Naomi is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com.