Under New Management: How to Handle a New Boss

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

Managing up can be as important as managing down. This is particularly true when you find yourself starting a relationship with a new boss. But what if things get difficult at the very beginning? What strategy will you need to keep managing the changes on top? In this blog post, we will be discussing how you can handle a new boss, like a boss!

One thing that you need to keep in mind is that your new boss will have a much direct impact on your success and failure at the workplace than anyone else. This is because your boss is the one who establishes all the benchmarks for your success and interprets your actions for key players around you, while at the same time controlling the resources that you need. Having a productive working relationship with your boss will need to be a clear first priority for you.

Define Clear Goals

You will need to set a clear lift of goals when you think about working with your new boss. The following goals should be kept in mind along with others:

  • Clarify Your Mutual Expectations. The first thing you should do is manage expectations right from the start. You might get in trouble if you find your new boss expecting you to fix things fast when you are aware of serious structural problems at work. To be safe, you should get the bad news on the table as soon as possible to lower any chances of unrealistic expectations coming through. Be sure of your organisation’s capacity for change before committing anything to your new boss.
  • Secure The Resources You Need. Having a new boss means that you will get a renewed chance at negotiating key resources with him/her. This can be in the form of people, knowledge or funding. Never commit on any goals or KPIs before having your new boss commit on these resources. Failing to do so will leave you with little bargaining power.
  • Target Areas Important to Your Boss. At the start, you should aim for early wins in all areas that are important to you new boss. You should identify all projects and results that matter the most to your boss before focusing on your own priorities. This feeling of ownership will help you in building a strong relationship with your new boss. However, you should never make the common mistake of doing things that you personally consider misguided or trivial. Part of your job is to make sure that you shape your boss’s perceptions of everything that can be and should be achieved.
  • Get in the Good Books of the People Who Matter. You should aim to get good marks from all those people whose opinion is highly regarded by your new boss. This will help you build internal coalitions to support you at work. It is possible that your boss has existing relationships with people around you, so their assessments of you will be very important.

Establishing Your Working Relationship

It is important for you to establish how you and your new boss will work together. It is possible for your preferences to differ from those of your boss and you may be intimidated by the level of his/her involvement in your work. Instead of sitting back, waiting for things to escalate in the wrong direction, it is good idea to spend some time with your new boss in discussing how both of you will work together. Doing so will allow you to create a productive and frictionless working relationship, even if you do not manage to develop a close personal bond. There might be some ways of smart management that your new boss expects you to know. This article on Five Productivity Tips Your Boss Wishes You Knew will help you out.

Requesting Support Suited to Your Situation

The support you require from your boss will vary significantly, depending on the type of business you are working in. The role of a new boss in a startup will be very different from other situations like turnaround, realignment or sustaining success. In a startup, a new boss will have to help get critically important resources on-board. The boss will have to set clear, measurable goals while at the same time help the entire team stay focused. In a turnaround situation, the boss will have to make tougher personnel calls. In a sustaining success situation, the boss will have to play good defence and not make mistakes that could damage the business. Choose the kind of support you need from you new boss wisely.

Learn to Respect Each Other

You might have set your eyes on your leaving boss’s seat. Seeing someone else come and take that position might dishearten you. However, you need to understand that the only way forward is to work with respect. Treat your boss the way you would like your subordinates to treat you. Your success is connected with the success of your boss and that is why you need to work effectively with him/her.

Plan for 5 Crucial Conversations

You will be building your relationship with your new boss through a variety of conversations. These conversations begin from the moment your new boss joins the company and continues through the time before either one of you decides to leave or transition into a different position. During these all-important conversations, you will have to cover certain fundamental subjects. Below is a list of 5 type of conversations that you must have with your new boss:

  • Conversation 1: Diagnosing the Situation. In this conversation, you will seek to understand how your boss assesses the business situation. Does s/he think it is a turnaround, realignment or sustaining success situation? How does s/he think the organisation arrived to this situation? What are all the relevant soft and hard factors that make this a challenge? What resources are available to you and your boss? It is natural to have a view that is different from that of your boss but what is more essential is how you can both work together.
  • Conversation 2: Setting Expectations. This conversation is all about you seeking to understand as well as negotiate expectations. What are the key things that your boss wants you to accomplish in the short and medium term? What will constitute as a success? When and how will it be measured? Again, you might think that your boss’s expectations are unrealistic and there might be some effort needed from you to put facts first. You will also need to be able to smartly under-promise and over-deliver to make a greater impact in front of him/her.
  • Conversation 3: Working Style. In this conversation, you will be working to understand you and your new boss will be interacting on a daily basis. How does s/he prefer to be communicated with? Does s/he prefer face-to-face interaction of is s/he more comfortable with emails? How often will s/he want to communicate with you? What are the type of decisions that s/he would like to be involved in and what areas will involve you to make the call on your own? How does your boss and your style differ from each other? What implications will it have?
  • Conversation 4: Negotiating Resources. You will have to have a discussion on negotiating for critical resources. What are the things you need to succeed in your work? What are the thigs that you need your boss to do? It is not mandatory for the resources in question to be funds or personnel. For example, in a realignment situation, your boss might be able to play a vital role in helping you confront the organisation with the need for change.
  • Conversation 5: Personal Development. By the end of the day, you are there to advance in your career. With this in mind, you will need to discuss with your boss how your time in the job will help you with your personal development. Are there any special assignments or projects that you could get involved in? Are there any courses or programs that you could do to strengthen your capabilities?

In reality, all 5 of these conversations are interwoven and will take place over time. What is important is for you to figure out when the perfect time to have a discussion arises. Keeping things clear and having well-defined expectations will help you go a long way ahead. Try to avoid any frictions and maintain a healthy, productive relationship with your new boss.

Do you find yourself reporting to a new boss? How is the experience so far? What steps have you or your boss taken to help the team perform without any problems? Let us know in the comments section below. Additionally, do check out our other blog posts on similar topics, including 5 things your boss doesn’t want to hear you say and How to Deal With an Indiscreet Boss. Check out this blog post if you are stuck with a new boss who constantly undermines you. Share your thoughts with the rest of us!

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