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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

4 Ways to Get Your Hard-to-Please New Boss to Give You a Shot

Your supervisor—you know the one you were lucky enough to have a great rapport with—left her position, leaving you in the hands of a brand new boss. And now you’re starting to understand why all of your friends complain about their managers. No matter how long you’ve been at your job (or how much you have it down), it feels like you’re starting back at square one to establish your credibility with your tough new boss.

It’s frustrating when you feel like doing your best work isn’t good enough. But to develop a strong relationship, there will be some degree of “proving yourself” first.

Luckily, you already know how to do this. The trick is to apply similar strategies to those you would in an interview. (After all, that’s kind of what’s going on here.) You took the time to be your most impressive self before you began working with your old boss—and look how well that turned out! So, use the same logic to wow your new supervisor.

Interview Strategy 1: Follow All the Rules

I know: This seems like an almost too obvious place to start. But, you need to “act the part” of top-notch employee. And that encompasses more than working hard (which you’re already doing, seemingly to no avail).

Maybe your last boss really didn’t care whether you rolled in 10 minutes late or extended the occasional lunch break, because you always got your work done. Or, if you work in a formal office, you may have become accustomed to letting your wardrobe (or language) downshift a bit. Well, your new boss might be judging you for these—seemingly minor—transgressions, and it’s harming her overall impression of you.

No, you don’t need to be the only person in the office wearing a blazer each day. But, start paying extra attention to things like making eye contact during meetings and not putting your phone face-up on the table when meeting with clients. Your manager will notice, and who knows, maybe you’ll correct the one thing that was really getting under her skin (like if she’s a stickler for punctuality). Down the road, you’ll get a better sense of what she does and doesn’t care about; but for now, go out of your way to be your most impressive self.

Interview Strategy 2: Communicate Proactively

Muse Director of Brand Strategy and Community Elliott Bell suggests the trick to getting a busy person’s attention is being “pleasantly persistent.” Just like you’d check back in with a hiring manager or networking contact to confirm your interest and see if you could provide further information, you should do the same with your new manager.

While you feel like he’s ignoring your emails, it could be that he is really busy getting a handle on his new role, and they’ve slipped off his radar. Instead of framing the situation as, “It’s my boss’ job to give me feedback,” act like you would on the job hunt. Follow up with this new contact—nicely, but regularly—to make sure he knows what your goals are.

This proactivity will help him, and make a good impression. Plus, it could make a huge difference in the kind of support you’re getting.

Interview Strategy 3: Put Your Network to Work for You

So your new boss doesn’t know how awesome you are yet. But other people do! Let’s start with your old boss. Was she promoted within the company? If so, it’s natural for her to reach out to her successor to see how it’s going, and she can put in a good word for you.

Even if she’s somewhere new, you can still ask her for advice. Fill her in on what’s going on and ask for honest feedback for how you can better connect with your new manager. Was there something she wished you’d done differently when you worked together—even something small? Asking for constructive criticism’s never fun, but in this situation it could make all the difference.

If you feel like what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s helpful to get an outsider’s assistance—or perspective—so you can adjust your approach if need be.

Interview Strategy 4: Keep Your Eyes Open

While this isn’t the warmest and fuzziest way that working for a new manager mirrors the interview process, it can be the reality. When you’re interviewing for a job, you pay close attention to how you get on with your potential boss—and if it doesn’t seem like a fit on your end, you keep looking.

Building a strong relationship with your new supervisor won’t happen overnight. So, don’t jump ship just yet. That said, if other employees seem to be advancing, or you feel like you’ve tried everything possible and still dread coming to work, you may want to consider looking for something new.

Working for someone new is just that—new. In other words, it’ll take time to get to know her, and for her to get to know you. In the meantime, try the strategies above to be sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Photo of boss speaking to employee courtesy of Yuri_Arcurs/Getty Images.