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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

4 Strategies for Dealing With a New Boss (Who’s Still Getting the Hang of It)

So, your new boss is, well, new—either at the company, at being a manager, or at both. While this can be exciting, it can also lead to frustrating challenges that you’ve never dealt with before. Yes, this person’s (hopefully) qualified to do the job. But no, he or she’s not going to be the perfect manager from day one.

So, how can you handle this situation without letting that person affect your work or general well-being? There are a few strategies that I’ve picked up after being in this position a few times—they not only made it easier, but also furthered my career.

1. Offer to Help

Being a new manager can be a little overwhelming and a little lonely. So, take a look at what your new boss is struggling with and try to identify opportunities where you can step in and help.

Maybe he’s having trouble wrangling team updates from everyone, or way behind on a stack of crucial paperwork, or even just struggling with the company’s internal technology. If you have the knowledge, offer a hand. And if you don’t have that, but you do have the time, offer to do something you do know how to do. Sure, he can finish that spreadsheet this week, but offer to do it today so it’s one less thing for him to think about.

You’ll earn brownie points and have the potential to become his new right-hand person.

2. Take Initiative

It’s likely that your boss is so busy with learning his or her new responsibilities that she’s not focusing on new projects, or even peripheral ones, if they aren’t aligned with the department’s core goals (no matter how promising they are, or how in-depth they were discussed with a previous manager).

When one of my new supervisors started in her role, with a focus on the company’s new products, I noticed that our blogging and social media efforts started to lag. Rather than sit around and watch our followers plateau, I set up a meeting with her, showed her what could be gained from keeping up our editorial and social platforms, offered to take it on, and set up a good time for me to fill her in on the progress. She said yes.

That one conversation ended up opening many doors for me both within that company as well as with other potential employers. Plus, my boss greatly appreciated that she ended up looking good in the process, too, which wasn’t a bad way to kick off a new relationship.

3. Play Along With Your Boss’ Micromanaging (at First)

It’s pretty common for people to micromanage their first couple of weeks (or months) on the job. While it’s easy to want to rebel upon the first bogus request your new boss makes (“She wants to personally edit every client email I send out!”), take a deep breath and remember this likely isn’t permanent. Instead, it’s probably your manager’s way of getting a lay of the land and learning not only what you do, but how it plays into the team’s larger effort.

However, if this habit keeps going (or gets worse), you should definitely consider taking action. Don’t feel like you can talk to your supervisor upfront about it quite yet? Try getting ahead of it. For example, do you know your manager is going to ask to see your client emails before you send them out? Send the drafts to him before he asks to prove that you’re on top of your game.

In most cases, managers (especially new ones) are looking for people they can count on to stay on top of their own work. The sooner you show this person that she has nothing to worry about with you, the sooner she’ll get off your back.

4. Don’t Shoot Down Every New Idea Your Boss Has

Just because your manager is new doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have good ideas. In fact, he was (ideally) hired because he does. However, that doesn’t mean he’ll walk in the door and immediately know which great ideas work for your company. So rather than refusing and just saying “we’ve always done things this way,” explain why. (It’s a classic show, don’t tell scenario.)

One of my new bosses felt like our team was fragmented and suggested starting an email chain to update one another with our daily progress. While her thinking made sense, our team knew this would quickly get annoying. But rather than “Reply All” to her with a no, I told her one-on-one that I loved her idea (we were too fragmented!) and I wanted to offer up a suggestion: What if we did this over Slack instead? I explained it was actually better than email because Slack was much more efficient (not to mention, all of our inboxes wouldn’t be clogged with unrelated messages). Rather than turning down her idea, I helped her to make it a stronger one.

Having a new person in charge doesn’t have to be a drag—it can actually be an important and exciting career opportunity if you let it!

Photo of computer help courtesy of Shutterstock.