Go into "listen and learn" mode, giving the new boss the benefit of the doubt. Remember, different doesn’t mean bad.
Q: My boss lost her job suddenly; now there is someone new in charge and he has a very different management approach. I’m nervous and wondering what I need to do to make this work.
A: First things first: Keep doing your job and doing it well. One of the challenges he will face is just making sure the lights stay on and all of the team’s responsibilities are met as he adjusts. The more you and your colleagues can help him in this basic way, the better.
At the same time, go into “listen and learn” mode. There are reasons your old boss is gone; what can you learn from that in terms of the direction your company wants to go? Is it a change in strategy that your former boss may not have endorsed, or is the direction the same but she couldn’t deliver? Pay attention to what you have been told directly as well as the more subtle cues you can pick up.
Then explore your nervousness. Do you tend to get nervous in general when change comes along? If so, here’s your chance to practice adaptability. Great things arise from change (your former boss will probably discover this, too, once the shock wears off). And your circumstances will change whether you embrace this or not, so learning to thrive in times of change will serve you well.
Of course, your nerves may have a different cause, especially if you were your former boss’ right-hand person. In that case, you may be at risk of being seen as “old guard” and need to be visibly on board with the changes that are underway.
So, let’s think about your new world. First, you have to give your new boss the benefit of the doubt. Remember, different doesn’t mean bad.
Make a list of all of his characteristics that stand out to you, and note whether adjusting to them will be easy or hard. Focus on ways he can help you develop professionally so that you are seeing the positive, even in the challenging aspects.
Make a point of building a relationship with him. Ask for regular one-on-one meetings, and set up a “getting to know you” lunch if he hasn’t done so. If he is from outside the company, be a resource, and step up to help during the transition.
Also be a voice in support of change. Your co-workers may well be nervous too, and helping everyone move forward will be a valuable contribution. Don’t succumb to gossip, and help people remain positive and keep their emotions under control. At the same time, recognize that there is some amount of distress that goes with the territory, so helping acknowledge that so you can all move forward also will make a difference.
Finally, recognize that this change may not suit you in the end. If you choose not to be part of the new approach, do so with intention, and move forward in a planned and deliberate way.
Instead of being nervous about the change, become a change agent yourself; it will benefit you in all aspects of life.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.