How to Cope With a New Boss At Your Organisation
How to cope with a new boss
Your boss has left, and a new one is on the way. You might be grieving the loss of your old boss, or be grateful that the new ‘relationship’ brings new opportunities for you in the workplace. Naturally there’s nervousness, expectation, hope and possibly resentment….along with a host of other emotions. So, what should you do to kick it off well, and keep it going on the right track?
The way you deal with your new boss, at the beginning, is critical. The most important thing to remember is that your new boss is sizing you up at the same time you’re evaluating them. But they’re the one with the most power – even if you’re in a social enterprise or charity.
It’s more than likely that you and the rest of your colleagues will have been introduced en masse to the new person in charge. If they haven’t arranged a more formal one-on-one meeting soon after that first day, book an appointment as soon as practical (keeping in mind that their schedule is probably busy that first week). This is a good way to show your initiative and start building your relationship.
That new meeting could be lengthy, but it is more valuable to keep your questions to the point, and show that you value their time and your own.
Arguably, the most important question is to find out how your manager communicates. Everyone has their own style, and it is more likely that you’ll have to adapt to them. Does your new boss prefer email or telephone…or do they prefer a quick one on one conversation? Are they into meetings? By working with their preferred communication style you’ll almost undoubtedly save yourself some frustration and resentment.
In the meeting itself, keep an open mind, be honest, and above all, don’t be fake…Sucking up to the new boss is bound to backfire. All in all, the main goal of your first formal meeting is to start building your work relationship.
Remember too that the majority of new managers will be feeling some first days nervousness too. So, making it clear that you can help them in their new position and that you can be relied on to get things done.
The next most important question is what are your new manager’s on-the-job expectations? How and when should reports be produced? Where do they see the organisation heading? What are the roles for the people in your section?
Listen carefully to the answers, and keep an eye on their mannerisms, particularly their tone of voice and how they phrase things. This will help you gauge this person’s attitudes and priorities, and even potential pitfalls you may have to watch for.
It is also worth stating that a new boss came into the position because someone higher up hired them. Your new manager will have ideas of how the organisation or department should be run.
Therefore, at least at first, expect to follow your new leader. So, adapting to them, demonstrating that you’re willing to help them succeed in the new position, and are there for them is a useful thing to do.
5 Conversations to Have With Your New Boss
Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge series goes even further in outlining the five distinct conversations you will need to have with your new boss – and something that you should plan for.
It is extremely valuable to cover certain fundamental subjects in these conversations:
- The situational diagnosis conversation. Seek to understand how your new boss sees the business situation. It may be different to your view, but it is essential you find out how they see it.
- The expectations conversation. Understand and negotiate expectations, and the key few things your new boss needs you to accomplish in the short and medium term. How will they be measured? Do they need to be reset (if they’re unrealistic)? Can you under-promise and over-deliver on them?
- The style conversation. How should you and your new boss interact on an ongoing basis? What kinds of decisions do they want to be involved in, and where can you make your own call?
- The resources conversation. A negotiation for critical resources, which could be, though not necessarily, funding or personnel.
- The personal development conversation. How your time in this job will contribute to your personal development. Are their projects or assignments you can contribute to without losing focus, are there courses or programmes that would strengthen your capabilities.
In practice, these five conversations are interwoven and take place over time. However, they are relatively sequential, with the personal development conversation more likely to come once you have had the other conversations, and once the boss and yourself have a degree of trust in each other.
That’s the ideal situation. What if, after awhile, it becomes painfully obvious that the new boss is in way over their head? Don’t take action right away. If you believe it will be a problem, start documenting instances where their lack of qualifications or skill is costing the organisation. Only when you have documentation substantiating your claim should you bring it to management’s attention (most probably the board of trustees at a charity) – but subtly, and in in the interests of the organisation itself.
However, in most cases, dealing with a new boss presents more promise than anguish. If they’re willing to adapt to the new situation, there’s no reason your organisation can’t do as well, or better, under their management.