Tips for Dealing with a New Boss
As the result of a major reorganization, the department I was managing was reassigned to a new division manager named Chet. About a week into this new organization, Chet asked me to get some information for him, so I gathered it, organized it, and delivered it the next day. His comment: “Wow, when I ask you to do something, you actually do it.”
That comment told me two important things about Chet: First, he was accustomed to not receiving information or results that he’d requested of his direct reports. And second, one way to impress him was to do as I had just done and deliver in a timely way.
That experience told me that just plain listening to what a new boss says can be a good way to detect what’s important to this person. Instead of bombarding the boss with an overview of your accomplishments or a declaration of what you view as significant, start by paying attention.
Notice their work style, communication preferences, expressed expectations, and information-sharing patterns. See what you can glean about the boss’s personality. Do they come across as confident? Insecure? Energetic? Smart? Needy? Bossy? Clueless?
It might seem like a good idea to arrange a meeting with the new boss as soon as possible to discuss expectations and start building your relationship. But imagine if each of the several people reporting to this new boss independently try to arrange a meeting. Instead, hold off for a while and see if the new boss proactively calls a meeting with the whole team and then schedules one-on-ones soon thereafter. Whether or not the boss does this is important information about how the person functions. Of course, if time passes without such a meeting, then it would be appropriate to arrange one yourself.
As soon as you have the opportunity for such a meeting, ask how you can be of the most help, especially 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. Ask how they would like to be kept informed about status.
Especially important: Find out how the new boss likes to communicate. If a minor problem arises, should you email, text, phone, or simply show up? Or does the boss expect you to solve it yourself? What about an urgent matter?
Whatever you do, try not to make comparisons to your old boss. Your new boss will likely have a different work style, different priorities, different pet peeves, and different ways of communicating. By helping your boss get up to speed, you’ll be demonstrating an interest in their needs, thereby demonstrating your value—to the boss, the team, and the organization.