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Getting to Know You: How to Start Right With a New Boss
A major change in the workplace is always unsettling, even for financial professionals who accept it as a staple of today's business world. But when the impending change involves welcoming a new supervisor, it can be especially unnerving.
One's boss plays an integral and ever-present role in everyday work life. And even if you've occasionally disagreed with your outgoing manager, at least he or she is a known quantity. Moreover, employees generally have favorable views of their boss, with 77 percent of employees recently surveyed by Robert Half International rating their working relationship as "excellent" or "good." Only 5 percent described it as "poor' or "terrible," according to recent research.
Even if you've enjoyed a strong relationship with your current boss, don't let the prospect of a changing of the guard cause undue worry or stress. View the transition as simply another professional challenge. Your ability to accept it, better yet, to make the most of it, will enable you to stand out. These tips can help you forge a productive and rewarding relationship with your next manager:
Make a good first impression. First perceptions are always important, but the stakes are even higher when you meet the person who will be your next manager. A negative impression might take several months and numerous professional tests to "work off," while a positive one can immediately set you on the right path with the new boss. Striking the right balance means not coming across as overly ingratiating or, on the other end of the spectrum, indifferent to the incoming manager. Although you want to be as helpful as possible, avoid the common inclination to tell him or her "how we do it here," unless you're specifically asked.
Similarly, be careful about assuming too informal a stance with your new manager, since it will take awhile to get a good read on your boss' personality, work style and sense of humor (or lack of). Also, keep in mind that he or she will be trying to pick up on a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues for insights into your personality, attitude and relationships with others, so make sure your words and actions are consistent.
Withhold judgment. Even when a professional is stepping into a supervisory role, it can be difficult to be the new kid on the block. With this in mind, greet the new boss with an open and nonjudgmental attitude. This is all the more important if you've heard anything negative about the person. Opinions or rumors that have circulated may lack validity, so give the newcomer the benefit of the doubt. Everyone deserves a fair chance to succeed in a new position. Also, understand that it may be awhile still before the person feels truly settled in and comfortable with colleagues. Therefore, reserve judgment on the successor's management style, professional knowledge and personality until he or she has had time to acclimate to the new role.
Have a meeting of the minds. A new boss will often want to meet individually with staff members to share information and set mutual expectations. Take the initiative to ask for such a meeting if necessary. It's always helpful to find out if an incoming manager has different goals for a department or for an individual staff member's role. Projects that your last boss viewed as high priority may have suddenly lost their urgency. For example, maybe your former manager kept financial staff focused on identifying cost-cutting opportunities while the successor wants to first improve the usability of financial information.
Use the meeting time to also offer an overview of your skills to ensure your talents are fully tapped. It might be helpful, for instance, to share that you're bilingual or an expert with Excel. Your supervisor may be managing numerous people and will likely appreciate the opportunity to quickly get up to speed on your strengths. It's a good idea to also try to learn more about your manager's background and goals. The more you understand about the person's career path, the more effectively you can interact with him or her.
Accept and adapt. Perhaps the surest way to make a good start with a new supervisor is to simply accept him or her in the role and be willing to adjust your work style as needed to ensure a productive relationship. For instance, maybe your former boss rarely asked for status reports while the new manager expects weekly updates. Although it can be challenging to alter long-established patterns, your willingness to do so will help ensure you're perceived as a team player and contributor, not an obstacle.
As you prepare for the arrival of a new boss, keep in mind that the success and quality of the relationship is heavily dependent on your own mindset and actions. If you're welcoming and supportive, you'll set the stage for a positive and productive partnership one that can be instrumental in helping you achieve your long-term professional goals.
For more advice on management and career issues, listen to Robert Half's podcast series at www.rhi.com/podcasts.
Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International Inc., the world's largest specialized financial recruiting service and a leading authority on workplace and management trends. The company has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Learn more at www.roberthalf.com.
Copyright 2008 Robert Half International. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.
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