When you’ve just landed a new boss, you naturally step your game up—clocking in a few minutes earlier, proofreading emails an extra time, and digging your most professional clothes out of the back of your closet. And this goes a long way—for some bosses.
Others, though, are impossible to impress by design. They’ve taken a page from the tough teacher handbook, and they intend to be strict and avoid smiling until springtime when they’ll soften up (just a bit).
So, if your new manager falls in this category, what else can you do to show him or her what a smart, capable, and well, impressive, employee you are? Try these tricks.
1. Try it Her Way From Start to Finish
A personnel change—especially at the management level—often means there will be some new approaches. And while you may think arguing that there’s no room for improvement in the way you currently do things will demonstrate how efficient you are, it actually comes off more like: “Sorry, boss—I don't think the time it would take to try it your way is worth it.” (And who would be impressed with that employee?)
So, shelve the phrase, “that’s how we’ve always done it,” and next time the boss suggests a new approach to something, focus on responding positively. Ask relevant questions, take notes, and execute the task in accordance with his or her new game plan.
Really, it’s a win-win. If the new strategy works, you’ve successfully completed a project under your hard-to-please boss’ watchful eye. And if it doesn’t, you’ve still proven you’re open to innovation (and the next time you push back on something, he or she will know that it’s not because you’re stuck in your ways).
2. Share Institutional Knowledge
That said—don’t confuse being open to change with silencing your opinions. A new boss is relying on your know-how, and his or her plan to try new ideas doesn’t negate your past experience. In fact, it’s the combination of your experience and this fresh perspective that will make your team the most successful.
So, if your boss is walking into an issue you’ve already encountered, speak up. The trick here is to position your point of view not as “I know and you don’t,” but as helpful insider info. Try using a specific situation you’ve encountered in the past, followed by a helpful out. For example, “I remember we once scheduled a board dinner after a meeting, and not many members stuck around. That’s when we decided to shift the social events to before the meetings. Would it be helpful if I floated a few different times by key members?” You’ll impress your boss with your insight as well as your diplomacy.
3. Fake it Until You Make It
Just as performers picture people in their underwear to get over stage fright, you need to master pretending that your new boss likes you. Why? Because if you spend every minute in the office in a paranoid frenzy, you’re not only going to psych yourself out, but you’ll also be distracting yourself from what you should be focusing on—your work.
As flaky as it sounds, you need start imagining that your boss likes you and acting accordingly. Before you go into a meeting, visualize him or her nodding and giving you positive feedback. Those good feelings will make you speak more confidently and smile more, which will in turn help you make a great impression.
4. Ask for Critical Feedback
Perhaps you’ve tried everything: You’ve done a great job of trying new things, you’ve been helpful by building on the old ones, and you’ve calmly and confidently walked into every important meeting. In fact, no matter how many times you sit back and evaluate your job performance, you can’t figure out why your new boss always seems dissatisfied. Now what?
The best thing to do is schedule a meeting with your new boss, and ask for direct feedback: “Now that we’ve been working together for a few weeks, I’d love to get your feedback on what is working well—and what isn’t.” Asking your boss to identify your areas for improvement forces him or her to take an inventory of your work as whole—including everything you’re getting right. Moreover, if there’s something specific you’re doing wrong, you’ll know. And, the sooner you do, the sooner you can make a change.
You want to feel great about what you’re doing every day, especially to your boss. So dealing with a tough one can be, well, tough. But arm yourself with these strategies above, and your boss will be on your side in no time.