Even if you’ve been at your job for years, suddenly getting a new boss can be jarring to your routine. Although it can be intimidating, keep in mind that your boss is also trying to adjust to a new role and the demands that come with it. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure a smooth transition and make sure that your new supervisor sees you as someone he or she can count on.
Schedule a meeting. You’ll be better off if you think of a new boss’s arrival as a reboot rather than a disturbance, says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “This could be an opportunity for you to start fresh,” she says. Plan a meeting—be proactive—to discuss any long-running or open-ended projects you currently have on your plate or that you anticipate in the near future.”Bring up projects you’d like to work on,” Haefner suggests. This meeting is also the place to ask about what your manager would like to see from you. “Setting expectations from the beginning will help minimize conflict,” Haefner says.
Don’t make it about you. “It’s many people’s instinct to see this as an opportunity to make sure your boss knows how great you are and where you want to go next in your career,” says Christine DiDonato, founder of Career Revolution Inc. That’s a mistake, she warns. The first impression you want to give is that you’re a team player, which means the spotlight should remain off you for the time being. “The questions you should ask should be focused on helping them versus yourself,” she says.
Pay attention to your boss’s schedule. “You’d be surprised how paying attention to really basic things about a person’s work cadence can help you adjust to their style and expectations,” says Sarah Nahm, founder and CEO of talent and hiring startup Lever. Take notice of things like how early they get into the office and how late they stay, when they’re most productive and responsive to emails, and when they like to schedule meetings.
Figure out the best way to communicate. “One of the most common sources of workplace conflict is miscommunication, so make the effort to understand your boss’s communication style right off the bat,” Haefner says. “Depending on how different it is from your previous boss’s, it may take some getting used to,” she cautions, but this is an adjustment you can’t afford not to make. Find out if she prefers face-to-face updates or email (or even instant messaging), and proceed accordingly.
Find out how quickly you need to respond. When it comes to communicating, the “when” is just as important as the “how,” says Nancy Mellard, the national leader of consulting company CBIZ’s Women’s Advantage leadership program. “If your boss sends you an email after hours, does he or she expect you reply immediately, or are you able to wait until morning to respond?” she says. “The communications piece of the puzzle solves almost every other challenge.”
Plan to hit a few bumps in the road. “Set up a structure for feedback before you need one,” Nahm says. “You’re both adjusting to a new situation and a hiccup or two is normal, but you don’t want to wait for something to go wrong before you have open communication.” Initially, weekly or biweekly check-ins can give you both a chance to evaluate how the work and your communication around it is going. “Ill feelings can crop up simply when one person misinterprets the other,” Nahm says, so it’s important to curtail any miscommunication before it spirals out of control.