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Managing Your Boss

Surviving a New Manager

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1. Study your new manager’s leadership style.
Every manager has specific likes, dislikes, preferences, quirks, and hot buttons. Learn as much as you can about your new boss, either by asking directly, checking out the grapevine, or observing carefully. Modify your behavior accordingly.

2. Recognize that “different” does not mean “wrong”.
Your new manager will probably do some things (maybe many things) differently from your old boss. Unless there are legal or ethical issues, this change in direction is not “wrong” – just a new approach. And you probably need to adjust to it.

3. Maintain a helpful attitude.
New managers really appreciate employees who are encouraging and cooperative. Look for ways to be helpful. Share information about your work, provide a heads-up about problems, be a good listener, say nice things (as long as you mean them).

4. Discuss expectations.
Have a clear and direct conversation about your job. Give your new boss information about your goals, challenges, contributions, and resource needs. Determine whether this manager's expectations may differ significantly from the previous one. Agree on goals, objectives, and expected results. Discuss how information will be shared and decisions will be made.

5. Never complain publicly about your boss.
Strategizing with colleagues about how to work with your new manager can be helpful – kind of like group therapy. But do not, under any circumstances, get in the habit of griping about your boss to others. Many people have lost their jobs this way.

6. If your new boss has never been a manager before . . .
Keep in mind that the transition to management is tough, so cut your new boss some slack. The big change for first-time managers is that they now have some power over people, and they often don’t quite know how to handle it. Some become little dictators, while others try to be everybody’s buddy. Allow them time to settle into their new role. If it seems appropriate, ask how they like being a manager and if the job is what they expected.

7. If your new boss used to be your co-worker . . .
When a peer is made the manager, everyone has to adjust to the change in roles. Your former colleague is now responsible for managing your performance, which can initially be uncomfortable for both of you. Take time to discuss the role change, ask how you can help, and offer your support. If the two of you were sworn enemies, this is an unfortunate development for you, so try to adjust your attitude and make amends. Or polish up your resume.

8. If your new boss is a personal friend . . .
When a buddy becomes your boss, that person can no longer be your friend in exactly the same way. After all, your former pal now has to keep certain information confidential, worry about how other employees will perceive your relationship, and do your performance review. Try to understand this change and don’t expect things to be the same.

9. If your new boss came from another organization . . .
Different organizations have different cultures, so don't expect your new manager to see everything the way you do. Sharing information about your organization will be helpful, as long as you don’t start defining how things “should” be done. The new manager may have different ideas. Asking questions about their previous organization may help you understand their expectations and viewpoint.

10. Address issues with a businesslike, problem-solving approach.
If you have real concerns about your new manager’s actions or decisions – and it’s more than just doing things differently – then you should initiate a discussion. But don’t become confrontational, argumentative, or critical. Describe how the issue is adversely affecting results, then ask for your manager’s view of the situation. Listen carefully to the answer. Your goal is to compare perspectives, then end with some helpful agreements or action steps.

11. take concerns to others as a last resort.
If something truly destructive is going on - especially if it involves discrimination, harassment, illegal activity, or abuse - then you should definitely talk to human resources or the next level of management. But do not take this step if you are simply unhappy, because the odds are very good that your complaints will get back to your boss, who will not be pleased. And remember - it was your boss's boss who made the decision to hire or promote this person.

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