I will be laterally transferred as a manager to a new department reporting to a vice president in compliance with the company’s rightsizing plan. I’m excited about this new assignment and at the same time a bit edgy as I would like to start the work relationship right. My new boss is rumored in the organization as a no-nonsense guy who at times can be difficult to deal with. Could you please give me some ideas on how to handle my new boss? — Feeling Nervous.
A young American at a banquet found himself seated next to another guest, a Chinese diplomat. Not knowing what to say to a Chinese person, the young man nervously pointed to the first course and asked: “Likee soupee?” The diplomat nodded and smiled.
Later, the Chinese diplomat was called on to speak and delivered an eloquent address in flawless English. The young man was surprised. As the diplomat went back to his seat to the sound of applause, he turned to the young man and said: “Likee speechee?”
Sometimes, we are bothered by our careless conclusions about things. This makes us nervous and fidgety without basis except for our own fears, if not prejudices, as a result of what we have been hearing about a certain person. It doesn’t happen every day, but periodically you will be meeting new bosses as a result of your promotion, transfer, or even accepting a new job with another organization.
Whatever the reason, you have to do something to remove your anxiety by meeting the issue head-on by finding out the answers straight from the horse’s mouth. Now that you’ve been assigned to work for a new boss, it makes sense to invest a little time and energy to talk to your boss and ensure that things will run smoothly from your first day in office.
First and foremost, you should be the first to greet your boss on the morning of your first day. After the niceties, explore the chance to have a lengthy talk with him at a time and place of his convenience and discover the answers to the following questions:
One, how would you like me to adjust to your management style? That question is a paraphrase of a tactless, if not a blunt question like: “What’s your management style?” Be careful, though because this question raises further questions than answers which include the following: Would you rather be briefed on everything I do or would you be happy with my Management by Exception Reporting? How much detail would you prefer in my reports? Would you like them via email, text, or face-to-face? And so on.
Two, what are your thoughts on defining my level of authority? Or would you like that all transactions be passed on to you, regardless of the amount and nature of things? What are the things that I can approve without your signature? The idea behind this is to discover your level of empowerment. This also allows your boss to be freed from day-to-day routine so he can focus on more important things. If your boss knows about the advantages of decentralization, then he will be happy to agree to your proposal.
Three, would you like me to prepare a draft department plan? How about our targets for the year? Or would you like us to organize a strategic planning session with other managers? Surely, your boss will appreciate your self-confidence and initiative. This also helps you set the tone of your future work relationship with your new boss. The trouble is that your confidence may lead your boss to suspect that you may be eyeing his job. But don’t worry. This is more of an exception than the general rule as most bosses would welcome any help from anyone.
Last, would you like to tell me about your standards for evaluating my performance? Or in general, what are your expectations about me? What is our usual timeline and what resources do you need? Is it OK if I give you some contrary views regarding our current policies and procedures? Would you have an open mind to my ideas even if they run counter to your original plan? If you agree, I will always point out the pros and cons of every situation, as well as hidden issues that could cause us trouble in the future.
Sometimes, you could encounter some bosses who may misinterpret these questions, because they are anxious to hide their incompetence. Many of them were promoted into management positions due to office politics or they have become good followers rather than good leaders in the past. Hence, the reward. If this is true in your boss’s case, then be aware of things. Your boss may be holding a vice president position, but it doesn’t mean he is a good leader.
In fact, some bosses who are in that category may belittle your confidence, initiative and effort as a defense mechanism to cover up for their own inadequacies. Incompetent bosses like that use their employees as scapegoats almost on a regular basis. Watch out for the red flags. If you are proactive and observant, the odds are that you will not be the target of an insecure boss’s tirades.
Whatever happens, never criticize your incompetent boss even to your best friends and colleagues in the office, much more to his superiors. Very few people can win the battle against a boss, unless you have a clear and factual basis that he has committed something illegal, immoral, and unethical.
Sooner or later, incompetent bosses are often discovered and eased out of their jobs. If that happens, prepare for any eventuality, either to take his job or work for another new boss within the same organization or elsewhere.
ELBONOMICS: Opportunity doesn’t knock. It’s always there when you open the door.