As a manager, I’ve had my share of new employees. I’ve also gotten my share of new managers along the way. In my 9-5 job, I coach new managers and employees in navigating their new budding work relationships.
Each situation above changes the workplace dynamics and requires a different level of engagement. Undeniably, the difficult change will probably be getting a new manager. After all, they may be new to the organization, the team, or even managing.
Let’s jump into how you can prepare to manage a new manager.
It’s your job to learn about the expectations of your new manager.
The first step in building a relationship with your new boss is asking questions.
You want to learn about the expectations of your new manager. Ask how you can help, what projects they would like to see completed, and when they would like them completed. You should also ask for feedback on how well you are meeting those expectations. Get other information that could be helpful in understanding their goals and expectations for the team. What you are trying to avoid are surprises and gaps in your performance. They have a totally different understanding of what success looks like and you want to be sure you can manage to it.
If your new manager is coming in soon after another leaving, be sure to recalibrate your thinking. This is an amazing time to reset and refocus your performance and start anew.
Addressing lost career traction with a new manager
Typically this isn’t a problem when things weren’t great with a previous manager—you can start fresh. However, if you had a good relationship with a previous manager, you may feel like you’ll lose traction in your career.
I recall working with an employee who had created a robust career development plan leading towards a promotion. Her manager was invested and fully bought in on this plan but then shared that she, herself, would be resigning in one month’s time. The employee was not only devastated at the departure, but felt like she would be felt to start over and prove herself to the incoming manager.
And to be honest, she wasn’t entirely wrong.
The incoming manager doesn’t have context into the type of employee you are or your expectations. They certainly won’t know if you’re promotion-ready until they’ve had time to evaluate you, but that’s no reason to halt your plans.
You still have a responsibility to yourself to keep moving forward and involve them on your plans so they are prepared to coach, mentor, and advocate for you.
Be respectful, but stay true to yourself.
In the early stages of your new manager’s tenure, it’s important to be respectful but also stay true to yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer your opinion when something isn’t working for you–and don’t feel bad about doing so. You’re an adult and have every right in the world to speak up for yourself or disagree with someone if need be. If a decision doesn’t sit well with you, say so respectfully, kind, and directly without being confrontational. Something along the lines of, “I’m not sure I’m in alignment with this decision yet because…”
As long as you broach the topic in earnest with a desire to deepen your understanding, it should go over well and hopefully garner respect from your manager as well.
Stay focused on your work, even when it gets hard.
It’s easy to get distracted by an incoming new manager. You may find yourself feeling frustrated, angry and stressed by their style and that’s perfectly normal. But if you let these emotions affect your work or relationships with other people at work, it will hurt more than just feelings. It could be detrimental to you in the long run or their perception of you.
So how do you stay focused on your job despite all this?
The first step is to keep in mind that the work reigns supreme. Trust me, I fully understand how hard it is to stay focused when there is a conflict with their management style or lack thereof, but keep going.
But I will also offer up that if you’re truly find it hard to focus on the work, talk with your manager about the issues you’re having. Provide them the space and opportunity to course correct where and when possible.
Get ready for change and be helpful during this transition.
When a new manager comes on board, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not the only one who will be adjusting. Your manager has spent his or her entire career working with other people who have different expectations and processes than yours. Understand it can be hard for them too.
It’s also important that you don’t get scared off or intimidated by change. Your new manager might ask you to do things differently than what was done before–and that’s (usually) okay. Naturally there will be an adjustment period where you’re both learning and creating new norm. This is an opportunity for both of you to learn from each other and grow as professionals together.
Getting a new manager is hard, but try to be supportive.
Be supportive where you can. Be a team player where possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, but also don’t be afraid to take the initiative and figure things out on your own if no one else is offering assistance.
Nothing else really needs to be said here.
You may be wondering how you can help your new manager adjust to their new role. The answer is simple: be patient and supportive.
New managers have a lot on their plate right now, so give them time to adjust to their new job before judging them too harshly. They’ll need some time to get used to their team and the way things work around here.
Be patient while they figure out how best to communicate with people from other departments, offices, or even their own new manager. It might take some trial-and-error before everyone feels comfortable working together as a cohesive unit again after being separated for so long under different management.
If possible, offer any assistance that might help ease into this transition period such as helping set up meetings with individuals outside of your immediate department. Help them be successful navigating in certain pitfalls or organizational politics.
If they are successful, it may help you in the long run as well.
Go with the flow
Getting a new manager can be a bit of a wildcard.
Side note: try to see if you can be part of the interview panel. Not always possible, but certainly helpful if you’re able to pre-vet your potential manager yourself.
It’s important to remember that they’ll probably be just as nervous about their new job as you are. This is why it’s best to stay flexible and keep an open mind when working with them. If they have any major changes in store for your department, try not to get too attached to your current methods, the best thing you can do is be ready for anything.
Encourage feedback, but don’t be afraid to give it.
When you’re new, it’s important to encourage feedback from your manager. However, if you aren’t sure how to give or receive feedback in a way that feels comfortable and helpful for both parties involved, this can be awkward.
The first thing is that you should never criticize the person; instead focus on what they did wrong and how they could improve next time around. Refrain from providing personality-based feedback, versus behavior-based feedback. It’s the difference between telling someone “they’re rude” in contrast to telling them “you interrupted me four times while I was talking.”
It’s also important not to make assumptions about their intentions or motivations.
New managers have a lot on their plates. Help them out as much as you can starting with making a personal connection.
As a new manager, their plate is full. They are dealing with the normal day-to-day tasks of running a team and making sure everything is running smoothly. But on top of that, they also have to learn about your company’s culture and how things work, and then figure out how to integrate themselves into it all.
It can be overwhelming.
And if you’re like most people who are thrown into a situation like this without any warning or preparation time, there’s going to be an adjustment period. Expect everyone to possible feel uncomfortable until they a new norm is created.
This adjustment period can be smoother than making a personal connection where you can.
The bottom line is that new managers have a lot on their plates.
They need to learn about the expectations of their new role, figure out how to work with their team and keep them motivated. All of this happens while trying not to lose sight of what matters most: the work and people.
But don’t let this scare you off from being an excellent co-worker. You can help your new boss by being respectful, staying focused on your work even when it gets hard, encouraging feedback (even if it hurts), and going with the flow when things change.