I’ve worked in the same company for about three years (since I graduated from college). Recently, my old boss left, and there’s now a new head of the department who I’ll be reporting to. I haven’t changed jobs or reported to someone new since I started working—so this is a new experience for me. Any ideas on how to get off on the right foot with a new boss, especially when I didn’t change roles or companies?
Thanks for writing! It can feel awkward to report to a new boss, especially if you’ve been reporting to one person for a while. But, this change is also a great time to set yourself up for success at work. Here are two things you should be focusing on to make sure the transition is smooth.
Be Welcoming & Helpful
First off, go out of your way to be welcoming. If your boss doesn’t hold a formal department introduction or meeting on his first day, it’s okay to stop by his office, introduce yourself (including giving him a handshake and sharing your job title), and let him know that you’re looking forward to working together. Even if you met him during the interview process, you should still pop in, re-introduce yourself, and welcome him to the team. Keep it short, though—don’t monopolize his time and be respectful that he might be overwhelmed.
On that note, remember that being the new person on a team, even if you’re the boss, isn’t easy. So do whatever you can to help him out in those first few days. Being friendly, helping him to find a far-away conference room, and offering to explain the voicemail system are all little ways to help your new manager feel more comfortable at the company. As an added benefit, being outgoing and helpful in your boss’ first few days establishes you as a go-to person on the team.
Next, within the first week or so, you’ll want to make sure your boss is clear about your role and goals within the company. Remember that a new boss often slightly (or even dramatically) redefines a team’s priorities and structure—and if your boss is clear about your strengths and career goals from the get-go, it’s more likely that you’ll be positioned for success.
Usually, as part of an organizational overhaul or new hire situation, a manager will set up one-on-ones with each member of his new team—but if that's not the case, asking him for time on his calendar to do so is appropriate. When you get the chance to sit down, open with a short (two-minute or less), high-level description of what you do, focusing on the responsibilities that are relevant and impactful.
Be sure to subtly mention impressive jobs or projects you’ve worked on in the past, or anything that you’d like to do more of—i.e., “A part of my current role I really enjoy is developing marketing materials, which is a skill set I’ve been building on since my time working on the communications plan for the branch merger.”
This is also a great time to let him know that you’re excited about growth within the team and company. Share with him where you want to be in three years and ask him for his guidance—try something like, “In a few years I’d like to have four direct reports and be in charge of P&L for two major properties. As we work together, I’d love to get your feedback and thoughts on what I should be doing now to get there.” It’s okay to treat him like a boss-mentor, even if right now he’s just a boss. It builds trust and shows that you respect his authority and career history to ask his advice on your own ascent up the ladder.
Over time, you’ll learn more about how best to work with your boss, but these steps will get you off to a great start. Yes, there will definitely be an adjustment period as your boss decides how he wants to structure the team, but remember that this can be a great chance to show him what you’ve got and recalibrate your position within the company. Take the opportunity to put your best foot forward. Good luck!