Whether it's your first time getting a new boss or you've had several changes in the last year, this episode is breaking down how to set yourself up for success when reporting to someone new.
Changes in reporting structure because your boss left the company or there was a restructure, can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be. Melissa is sharing 3 strategies to build a successful relationship with your new boss without sacrificing the momentum if you've built.
New bosses are a new opportunity. Listen in to learn how to leverage it as one.
Learn more about coaching at www.melissamlawrence.com
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Navigating Your Career
Episode 29: Reporting to a New Boss
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast.
I’m so happy to be talking with you today about something that happens so often and I personally have dealt with a lot in my career, and that is what to do when you get a new boss.
Your boss is one of the most important factors in your job satisfaction and in choosing a job. When you interview, you are looking at whether or not you think your boss would be a good fit for you too, so when they leave and you’re handed a new boss, or maybe there is a restructuring that occurs, it can be stressful. So that is what we are going to talk about today. This is something I work with my clients on, but also I experienced this as a manager, moving to having someone report to me that wasn’t happy about it, but also had experienced 7 different bosses in just a handful of years at my last company so I totally get it from both perspectives and I am going to help you set yourself up for success.
First, I want to tell you about one of my clients Urszula (Oozshua). She and I have been working together for about 3 months and she has had such incredible progress in that time, really from the first week she started seeing progress toward her goals. She was kind enough to send me some feedback that I would love to tell you about it. This is very timely to this topic too because working with a boss that doesn’t necessarily fit your style or just working with someone new is something that we work on together. Here is what she has to say:
Before coaching with Melissa, I was totally overworked and exhausted. I felt like my life was out of control. I was searching for jobs because I thought it was my only way out. I reached out to work with Melissa and from the beginning we established SMART goals and started to execute on them. I loved this approach. Melissa helped me set healthy boundaries at work and taught me best ways to effectively communicate my needs to my supervisors.
Week-after-week I was making incremental improvements and Melissa always cheered me on giving me extra wind in my wings. Now, 3 months later, I feel passionate about what I do, I am working more efficiently and on high profile projects, being recognized by leaders throughout my organization. Thanks to Melissa, I became so good at time management that I have time to complete my work during weekdays, do the personal things I enjoy and still have time to take MBA classes.
Melissa also guided me through my self-discovery process and helped me become aware of and reconnect with my strengths. I love our weekly meetings. I take a huge pride in reporting my weekly wins and enjoy discussing new ways of approaching encountered challenges. Every week I am learning something new about myself. I feel happier, stronger, and fully empowered to make decisions.
I would highly recommend coaching services provided by Melissa... believe me this will be the best investment you can ever make in yourself.
How amazing is that? I just want to take a moment to celebrate her and recognize the progress she has made.
Ok, now let’s focus on what to do when you get a new boss. This is such an important topic because your relationship with your boss has such a strong impact on your career. Career Builder reports that 58% of managers say they never received any management training. But you have needs as an employee and they have needs as a manager and if you don’t align, it’s going to be a disaster for both of you.
Plus, if we assume your manager may not be the most equipped at people leadership, and in often cases is more of a technical subject matter expert, you can’t really rely on them to lead the new relationship. It is going to take both of you, regardless of any training your manager may have.
I want to tell you a bit more about how I experienced this too, so as an employee, at my last company I was hired by one person, then before my first day, he left the company, and so I immediately was reporting to his boss, which was the head of HR, which was a little intimidating but also gave me the chance to show what I was capable of to the upper level of management.
Then a few months later, they backfilled my original boss’s position and so I was reporting to this new person, which was the most stable of the time I was there, about 2 years with the same boss, but then he left, so I reported to an interim person again, then the position was backfilled again to one of my peers, so I reported to him, immediately after, my former interim boss, left the company, and about 6 months into the role, my new boss left for a corporate role, then another one of my peers stepped in that role, then I moved out of reporting to him, back to reporting to the head of HR because this was better aligned to my role. Are you with me? It was a lot of transition, a lot of movement of team members.
In this span of 5-6 years, I reported to the head of HR 3 times, and each time that person was a was a different head, then I also reported to 4 different direct managers during that time, so it was a total of 7 different mangers, some interim some longer term, it was a lot.
When you are reporting to a new manager, it is a new person observing you and judging your performance, bringing in their opinions of you, which when you go from peer to manager, can be an added layer of complexity. Additionally, there was very little if any diversity in these management positions, so that was another area that I struggled with and had to overcome.
I definitely had my fair share of needing to pivot and be agile when it comes to my management relationships while not sacrificing the momentum of my career in the process.
When I was a people manager, I worked in government consulting in child welfare, I was promoted from a management position where I was responsible for 2 satellite offices, to being a statewide manager where I was responsible for 3 additional satellite offices each of which had their own site manager, so I now had levels of management reporting to me.
At the time I was in my mid 20s and one of the managers that was now going to be reporting to me was an older gentleman in his 50s. He was hired into the company under my boss, who was a woman but of his same age, if not a bit older than he was.
When he learned he was going to be reporting to me, he wasn’t happy about it. He acknowledged I was technically an expert, and even moreso than him based on my experience in the industry we were in but he told me plainly, he would not have taken the job if he knew he was going to be reporting to a woman of my age.
At the time, I had a great manager, she was honestly the best I’ve ever had and I’m friends with her to this day 20 years later.
She did something I would encourage all managers to do and that is to let your employees figure things out on their own. Give them support, but give them experience.
So, when this new direct report of mine showed some resistance to me, flat out told me he didn’t want to report to me and was going to look for another job, he also communicated this to my boss, I did what you’d expect, I asked my boss to fix it ha ha.
I thought, this is your person and you made this decision, so you need to tell him he needs to get on board. That’s not what happened.
Instead she told me, she understood this was difficult, but that I needed to get him on board.
I needed to navigate this difficult situation and build the relationship with him.
She would be there to support me but wasn’t going to do it for me.
So, I booked a trip to his site, which was in upstate Wisconsin and set up some time with him face to face to hear his concerns.
I listened and we talked about how we could work together. How he could accept me as his new manager, and what I could do to support him. It was a difficult but necessary conversation and I’m still grateful to my boss for making me deal with this myself because I had so much growth from it.
He still had some resistance but over time he softened and we were able to build a productive relationship.
I've definitely had my fair share of working with people that are new bosses to me but also those that are reporting to me and definitely were not happy about it. Transitioning to a new boss can feel really overwhelming and like you're going to be giving up everything that you've worked so hard for in establishing that credibility with the boss that you were reporting to before. Maybe even that you felt really good about the relationship that you had with your boss and maybe really enjoyed working with them and for them and now you have someone new and either you don't know that you will have that same relationship or maybe you already know them and you don't like them and you aren't looking forward to now having them be in a superior role to you.
When it comes to building your relationship with your new boss there are three things that I would suggest you focus on the 1st is going to be repor. And repor is all about building a relationship that isn't only civil but that is going to make work more enjoyable for you. If you don't like your boss if you feel stressed around them that is going to be more of a burden to you than it is to them. The second thing is that you try to let go of any assumptions about them whether you know them or you don't or you're just really tied to who you are reporting to before avoiding assumptions is going to help you in the long run. And the third thing is that you learn how to leverage the relationship for you and for them. I am going to dig into each of these different strategies 1 by 1 so that you can learn exactly what to do and how to navigate situation so that you don't sacrifice what you've worked so hard for and can be successful regardless of change in management.
So first let's talk about building repor. When you find yourself getting an organizational announcement or maybe you even have a one on one where you're getting the heads up that you're going to be getting a new boss your initial reaction may be “Oh no” or “crap:” what am I going to do now? Instead I want you to take a step back. Think about this just being another human being and that this change is neutral. This is just another person that in a professional work environment you have to learn to get along with for the success of not only you but your company and your team. I know this can seem hard and I may be oversimplifying it for you but at the end of the day the relationship that you have with your boss is very important and it isn't just up to your boss to make sure that that relationship with you is a positive one.
Depending on your thoughts about the person, you are going to be presented a number of thoughts. However, this change, the new person that will be your boss is a neutral circumstance. It only means something good or bad when you attach your thoughts about it. Your thoughts are based on your beliefs, your experiences, and your brain’s job to protect you from a perceived threat. So you need to take a step back and take a deep breath and try to think about this situation from a netural place. How is this good? How is this a challenge? If there will be a potential challenge, how could you solve for that? How is it not a problem at all?
This may feel like it’s happening to you, but you still have the opportunity to choose how you want to think about it and what you want to do with the information. The goal here is to help you make intentional action that is going to be beneficial to you, not let your fear or other feelings and thoughts about this prevent you from putting your best foot forward.
So I'm going to ask you to think about what are the things that you can connect with your new boss about. Is there something you have in common with them maybe if you look at their LinkedIn or see their their bio at work or their announcement message there is something that you can connect to that will help build that relationship from the beginning. You may have an immediate negative reaction to this person so it may be difficult to have an open mind and really think about how can you build a rapport. I want you to think about your one on ones, you are team meetings, your upcoming performance reviews.
I also want you to think about how you want the change to go. If you have a stressed or tense relationship with this person those regular ongoing conversations are going to be very stressful. However if you are able to have some common ground and make this relationship as positive as it can be it not only helps you but it helps everyone. There is a tool that I teach my clients that helps them see not only their thoughts and feelings about a situation but also how others could interpret it. And I think this is something that is often overlooked is we often get caught up in our own thoughts and feelings about a person or a situation and we let those thoughts and feelings justify a behavior or action that we have that doesn't make us look in the best light and really gives our power and control and reputation really over to this other person or circumstance.
When you think about who it really serves to have a positive relationship and build this rapport with your new boss really think about who you want to be how do you want to represent yourself how do you want to put your best foot forward and what type of work environment do you want to have? Even if you have loyalty to the person you reported to before or there's some other circumstance that is maybe preventing you from wanting to give this person a chance, maybe you think that they don't deserve the role or they aren't qualified at the end of the day they are your manager and you need to have a positive relationship with them in order to advance your career. This doesn't mean that if this person is discriminatory or breaking any sort of policies or laws that that is something that should be overlooked that is certainly not what I'm saying, but I'm just talking about a typical appropriate transition of power from one manager to another and the natural resistance you may have to that and how to avoid it.
The 2nd strategy I offer is to really look at your assumptions about the person. Speaking from personal experience I have gone into situations where I made assumptions about the person – and you know what this looks like, where you may sit back and watch to see what they do, how they handle certain situations and then you decide if it was right or wrong. Ha ha. I’ve also been on the other end of having assumptions put on me. There is a saying that assumptions just make an ass out of you and me and as maybe flippant as that saying is there is some truth to it.
If you go into the relationship thinking and assuming that this person is not going to be as good of a manager, that you are going to have to start over, and they are not qualified your brain is going to seek information to validate those thoughts and assumptions that you have. This is why sitting back and seeing based on your assumptions can be so damaging to the relationship. Your brain is working for you and the thoughts you have, so if you think they don’t now what they are doing, you are going to easily see all the ways this is true.
It isn't a bad thing, it is something to simply be aware of so you can decide if that is how you want this to go or do you want to choose something different. If you are going to make assumptions I would rather you make an assumption that the relationship will be positive and that this is going to be a manager you learn a lot from rather than the opposite.
When you make assumptions you are deciding ahead of time the outcome of a situation. I would ask you why that would be something that you would want to do? It is something that will likely be natural to you but it isn't something that you would necessarily intentionally choose to do if you had this awareness and went into this relationship with an open mind. You may be thinking this person will not see your worth see your value or know how hard that you've worked to get where you are. This may be true. So instead of assumptions that you put on them I would instead look to think about how can you set them up for success how can you help them see you in the way that you want to be seen? Because at the end of the day resisting this change resisting this transition is only going to hurt you.
A common pitfall I see people make is they assume the new manager will either be awful or on the other side, assume that the new manager knows how great they are. So let’s say you had a promotion in the works, and your boss had told you it was going to happen this year, then you get a new manager. Don’t assume that your new manager is on board and even knows about that conversation with your manager. A lot of things can impact whether or not that promotion ever happens, including what your new boss thinks of your performance. Instead you want to think about what you can do to help them to show you are deserving of the promotion and all the possible hype they may have heard about you.
The 3rd strategy Is to leverage the relationship to your advantage. You want to think about what you can do for your new boss to help them acclimate to their role better, get up to speed, and also think about how they can help you.
When you are reporting to someone new it is a great opportunity to level set. To talk about what you need, what you do, what you want. It’s a time to start fresh. With one of my clients, when we went through my career mapping process we discovered that for the short term she would be very fulfilled in her role if she had a broader scope of responsibilities and was able to leverage some of her underutilized skills. When she got a new boss, it was perfect timing. We did a gap assessment of the responsibilities she has now and the ones she wants to have. We then practiced her pitch for positioning herself to do these added responsibilities with her new boss. When she had her first 1-1 with her new boss she brought up her ideas of what she could be doing and I taught her how to position it from the bosses and company perspective. Her boss was all in and now she’s re-negotiating her responsibilities. How cool is that?
You can also use this opportunity to talk about the type of management style you prefer, what motivates you and how you like to be recognized. I always coach my leaders to do this proactively but if your manager doesn’t bring this up, you can. No more waiting and being frustrated for not having your needs met, you can go ahead and take this into your own hands and stop being frustrated about it.
When you report to someone new this can be a great opportunity to use this to your advantage, to bring up the ideas you have, the things you may have been shut down for in the past, you now have a new open mind on them. With my client we also talked about how she could help her boss onboard effectively, learn the lay of the land, and get off running. You may think this is more work for you but ask yourself why you think that? Challenge that thought. How is your boss doing their job better more work for you? It may be a bit more time in the beginning but in the long run, you will be less frustrated and spend less time helping and trying to navigate maybe more chaos because of lack of information. Also your boss will likely never forget how you helped them, also a win for you in the long run.
So how do you think you could leverage this relationship?
What more could you give to it?
What do you need?
If you approach your new management as an opportunity and leverage these 3 strategies: build repore, manage assumptions and leverage the relationship, you are bound to have a more successful outcome than if you stress and worry over this change.
Because the fact is, you can’t change it. It is what it is. What you can change is how you react to it.
You get to decide how you want to manage it.
How you want to use it.
How you want to show up and be your best version of yourself.
If you make your decisions on who you want to be, you will be happier with who you are and face less stress, guilt, and regret.
That is all for this week’s episode. Before we go, did you know that I have a free newsletter you can join? If you love the podcast you will definitely want to be on the list. Every week I send an email to my insiders with a practical tool, resource, or advice for navigating your career. So if you want to build on this podcast and crush your career goals while feeling better in the process, I invite you to join. It’s completely free. All you do is head over to my website at www.melissamlawrence.com and add your name. I will put a link in the show notes.
Until next time, have an amazing week.