March 23, 2012
How to start smart with a new boss
When a new supervisor steps onto the scene, everyone gets a little nervous. That’s only natural, according to Julie Jansen, author of “You Want Me to Work With Who?”
The little details of your new manager’s work style can be critical. Jansen relates the story of one employee who was let go because his new boss hated how the employee would stand at her office door to chat, instead of writing a pithy email.
But you don’t need to jump on the worrywagon. “Assume this boss is going to be the best boss you’ve ever had,” Jansen says. “It’s a lot easier to move forward if you have that attitude.”
Questions to ask your new boss
What do you need to know about my role?
How do you want me to keep you apprised of my work?
Do you have any project plans?
Do you want to have a regular team meeting?
Do you want to meet with me individually?
Do you need any background from me?
What information can I provide to you?
Is there any way I can be of help to you?
“You want to get the big picture,” Jansen says, as far as your new boss’s preferred working relationship. “What makes them tick, what makes them crazy, and how to communicate.”
Bruce Tulgan, author of “It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss,” agrees. First, observe your supervisor as he learns the organization’s moves. Then, tell him you’d like to sit down and have a conversation whenever he has time in his schedule. Tell him about your role in the company and what you do.
But remember, it’s a two-way discussion. Ask your supervisor how he sees your group or team, what he wants from the team, and any guiding management practices. “How do I succeed at working for you?” is the key question behind the dialogue, Tulgan says.
What if your boss asks you to dish on the corporate rivalries? Don’t go there, Jansen says. “Focus on business outcomes,” she says. “Talk about the good stuff, and don’t sound like a gossip. You can’t trust this person yet.”
If you had a negative relationship with the previous manager, or that daily doughnut stop made you chronically late for work, don’t mention it. If the new guy doesn’t mention your misstep, he may not know or find the issue all that important; if he does bring it up, admit to your weakness and how you’re working on correcting the problem.
Of course, a few of us start dancing with our new boss with two left feet, or so it seems. If that happens, take a step back, Tulgan says, and speak directly with your supervisor about the best practices and shared mission of the organization.
Approach the conversation in a cooperative, can-do way. You might say: “Let’s get back on the right footing; what can I do for you, and what do you need from me?” You might have misunderstood your boss’s ground rules and expectations, or processes he wanted you to follow.
Jansen tells the story of a client who approached a boss after three months, acknowledging that they just had not been getting along. “The boss was very appreciative” that the employee dealt with the issue directly, she says, “instead of ignoring the problem or cursing out the boss behind his back.”
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