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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

Can You Request a Better Manager?

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We're undergoing some organizational changes at my company, and a new manager is joining my department. The one coming in is known for being a micromanager, while the existing team leader is excellent. Both teams do similar work—but I want to be moved to have the “better” team leader. How can I bring this up?

—Nancy, Massachusetts

The short answer? Delicately. First, approach your current manager at a time when she is not overly busy or stressed and there aren’t other people around. A private lunch or coffee would be the best scenario. Tell her you know there are changes coming and you want to reiterate how much you enjoy working with her and being part of her team. Say that it’s your preference to stay with her because you feel that you still have things left to learn and accomplish.

During the conversation, make sure your tone is earnest and sincere and doesn’t slide into patronizing or syrupy brown-nosing. Also, avoid saying anything negative about the new manager. Should the conversation take this turn, you’ll be pegged as a complainer.

This is the best strategy for getting the excellent manager in your corner in the likely event she can influence who stays on her team and who is transferred to the new manager. I would not, however, express a clear preference to the higher-ups: It’s too risky the new manager could find out, and then if you end up with him, you’re toast.

Finally, realize that during any organizational change, your goal should be to maintain your reputation as a can-do, roll-with-the-punches employee. In these situations, there are a lot of factors at work—many of which have nothing to do with you or your performance. So don’t take the events as a personal affront.

Some anxiety and disappointment is natural, but recognize that people will be watching to see how you react to the changes. This means you have to be careful who you talk to about this situation (work friends included), and put on a good face even if you don’t get the outcome you desire.

And by the way, ending up with the micromanager isn’t the end of the world. Should this happen, go out of your way to cement a positive relationship with him immediately. Schedule a sit down, go over your goals, and ask him how he prefers to work on assignments. While you don’t want to mention his micromanaging directly, it can’t hurt to say you value working independently and you will work hard to establish his trust. Hopefully this will preempt too much interference as the two of you start working together.

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