Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with a new manager, part of Managing Your Manager.
You know sometimes, even though you're not the boss, you might find yourself doing some boss-like work. That's never more true than when you have a new boss. This person might be a first-time manager, or simply new to your department. In either case, they'll be in need of a little assistance as they learn the ropes and that provides a very special opportunity to manage your new manager. Let's start with one overriding rule. Take extra care to share with them the scope of your work and where you're at in terms of major milestones they should know about.
Don't let the new boss wonder exactly what it is you're up to. Also, if they want you to, feel free to sketch out the rest of the team as well so they can get to know the players and how they function as a team. Next, as the first few days start to pass, don't assume they know exactly what they're doing in terms of all the key processes and tools that define the group. No matter what their level of expertise, they won't know the unique way that the team processes the work, deals with clients and internal customers, or uses certain tools.
So it's smart to stop in every couple days to ask how they're settling in and to remind them it's okay to give you a shout if they have a question. After you establish a little rapport, you might go a step further and share some of the less tangible information about the group. For example, a little about the history of the group or maybe the group's relationship with other departments. Just remember to be positive. No finger pointing. Try to be honest but positive when describing the environment. I know you might feel compelled to share not only a little history but some of the politics too.
Who likes who, where the camps and coalitions are, who helped who, and who caused trouble for who. I want you to let the new person feel that out for themselves. If you start telling all the stories, even if they're true, you'll appear to be a person with loose lips, potentially a person who lacks integrity and even someone not to be trusted. If the new boss asks you about politics, your best bet is to tell them you weren't really involved in that issue and that maybe they'd get better information if they just talk to the people who were involved.
Your hands stay clean, and they're very likely to respect how you handled the question. Do feel free, however, to tell them about the weekly or monthly fires that tend to pop up so they won't be surprised. This might be a pesky customer who always calls on a particular day of the month or department with whom you often argue about resources. Or maybe it's a report that goes to the CEO that always causes debate. Whatever it is, make sure they're prepared instead of surprised. You'll be winning big points.
There's only one more terribly useful behavior to remember when you're dealing with the new boss. Early in their tenure within the first few months, make sure they know your long-term aspirations. You see, after about four or five months, they've learned about the team and what people currently do, and they've sampled your performance. So it's time to initiate a little conversation about your goals and aspirations. Keep it short, informal, and lighthearted. Save the formal stuff for the yearly evaluation discussion. So when you put all of these together, you realize there are many ways to proactively manage the new boss in order to help them and help you.
As long as you don't try to manage them too often and remember to err on being honestly helpful, you'll be investing in a strong relationship with your new colleague.
- Learning your manager's world
- Understanding your manager's motivations and expectations
- Helping your manager make decisions
- Responding to feedback
- Documenting issues
- Working with new, remote, or inappropriate managers