Getting a new boss can be nerve-wracking. For better or worse, you’ve figured out how to work with current manager. You know how long it takes him or her to reply to an email, the best approach for pitching new ideas, and how he or she defines “Urgent!”
But there’s no denying that working for someone new is an opportunity. Even if you’re one of the lucky few who loves your boss, a new person will push you to grow. At the very least, building that rapport all over again is a valuable skill.
And if your felt like your old manager was holding you back? Then, this just might be the break you needed.
Of course, wanting things to get off on the right foot isn’t enough to make it so. The people who make the most of this opportunity do the following three things:
1. They Put Their Best Foot Forward
Typically, when you meet a new boss, it’s as an applicant or brand new hire, and you’re focused on being your most impressive self. And then, as time goes on, you get a bit more relaxed.
When you started, you read every email draft five times. Now, you shoot off one-line responses from your phone. You used to be on time every day, but now you don’t sweat the delay from a long line at Starbucks. That’s because once you established credibility with your old manager, you may’ve learned she really didn’t mind lax email etiquette or occasional tardiness.
And while it can be confusing because you know your job inside and out at this point, you need to remember that you’re back at square one in the impression game with your new boss. So, play by all the rules of professionalism to show you know what they are.
Avoid Taking it Too Far
One thing that distinguishes smart people is they know how to dial up the professionalism—without overcompensating. In other words, you don’t want to show up an hour early, in a suit, and write super formal emails for two weeks in a row; and then go back to your old ways.
That’ll make it seem like you think following the rules is a switch you turned on to make a good impression (and then switched off again the moment you got comfortable). Bouncing between extremes will only confuse your new boss.
So, step it up in a way that’s compatible with how you plan to work moving forward. Aim to be a couple of minutes early, skip the too-casual-looks, and proof your emails. Those are changes that’ll make you look good—and be possible to keep up for the long run.
2. They Pitch Fresh Ideas
When someone steps into a management role, they’re looking for ways to keep moving the team forward. So it’s an opportunity for you to share ideas you have for innovations or new ways you can contribute.
So, schedule a meeting and prep for it by brainstorming any areas for improvement. Is there anything you think could be streamlined (or worth experimenting with)? Do you have an idea to advance a team initiative?
If nothing jumps out at you, spend the meeting asking questions. Ask your boss about his priorities and what he’d like to build out. Take notes and then go back and think on what he said. From there, send a follow-up email with ways to meet those goals.
Avoid Taking it Too Far
When you’re talking about improvements, there’s a temptation to dwell on what’s not working. But smart people know that things talking down—whether it’s your former boss or how things were done previously—is never a good idea.
It can make you look petty, or like you have baggage. Even if you feel it’s an objective fact that your old system sucks or you weren’t able to work up to your full potential, avoid venting. Stay forward-focused and positive.
3. They Offer to Help
Your boss is new—to the company, to the department, or to being responsible for your team’s work. And you remember what it’s like to be the most recent addition to a group: You invariably have a lot of questions.
So, use that as a jumping off point to connect with your supervisor.
Offer to share institutional knowledge, or the secret to getting a finicky printer to work, or your past interactions with a key stakeholder. Make it clear that you’re happy to answer any question as your manager gets up to speed.
Avoid Taking it Too Far
Smart people know the difference between being helpful—and sucking up. Don’t start acting like the teacher’s pet or appoint yourself as the intermediary between your supervisor and your team.
This behavior nearly always backfires, because it looks like you want your manager to play favorites. It’ll make your colleagues resentful (and can annoy your boss, too).
So, don’t act like you’re the only person on the team who can provide any assistance. Encourage your co-workers to help as well, and talk up their abilities, too.
The final thing all smart people do in this situation is let go. Even if your systems stay mostly the same (and it’s par for the course for them to change), people are, by nature, different. Your new boss will communicate in his own way and set priorities as he sees fit.
To keep moving forward in your own career, be flexible and open to new opportunities. This is a chance for you to grow and get ahead, too.