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Getting Along With a New Boss

There's probably never a better time to make a good first impression or a worse time to end up on the wrong side of the fence than your first few encounters with a new boss.


"This is a critical time in your career," says Jim DeSena, president of Performance Achievement Systems Inc. in Merritt Island, Fla., and author of The 10 Immutable Laws of Power Selling. "Treat your new boss as if he or she were a customer, and you'll find you get a lot better results because many times people are a lot more patient with a customer than with someone in their company."

Mr. DeSena suggests you also take the following critical steps to get along with a new boss.


Align your goals

"Your new boss may have different goals than your previous boss, so it's important you understand what your boss wants to accomplish," says Mr. DeSena.

It's up to you to communicate with your boss to learn his or her goals. Then it's your job to get behind these goals 100 percent. "Unless you're asked, don't say things such as, 'We've always done it this way.' Your boss may have been hired to make changes."


Adapt your style

It's possible that your new boss has a very different way of working than your previous boss.

"Once you get into a pattern of working with someone, and then you get a new boss, it's often a very difficult adjustment," says Mr. DeSena.

To help with the transition, ask how your boss wants to be kept informed about your progress on projects.

If he or she wants a lot of details, and wants to know everything, you may feel like he or she doesn't trust you if your previous boss was more inclined to let you turn in a finished product.

"Arrange a daily or weekly meeting just to say, 'Here's what I'm working on, and here's the progress I've made,' " says Mr. DeSena. "The reason your boss wants the details is to feel assured things are OK." 

If your boss wants little or no detail, all he or she wants to know is that it's going to be done on time. A boss with this style will likely say something like, "Here's what we're going to do, and here's when it needs to be done. Got it? Great! I'll see you when it's done, or let me know when there's a problem."

In this case, if you're accustomed to giving a lot of information, you may feel like your new boss doesn't care about you and doesn't want to understand what you're involved with.

"This person prefers you find solutions to most of your problems," says Mr. DeSena. "Go to your boss only when there's something you can't solve. Be short and to the point. If your boss requests more, then you can provide it."


Make your goals clear

Tell your boss about your job goals and career aspirations, so your new boss knows which direction you'd like to go.

"Don't do this too early, but don't wait too long, either," says Mr. DeSena. "Choose an appropriate time within the first month or two."

This is also a good time to mention something special you're working toward, such as a master's degree or advanced computer training. Doing so will give your boss an opportunity to put you to work on projects that will put your skills to good use.


Look for the positive

Try to learn ahead of time what the boss is like so you're not surprised. If he or she has managed a different department, try to find out his or her work style. Ask about his or her positive qualities so you can focus on the best in your new boss.