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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Terranova

So You’ve Got a New Boss, Now What?

Women at desk explains something on paper to man standing up.

If you’ve ever been there, you certainly know the challenges that come along with the news that there’s a new person in charge. The arrival of a new boss can evoke a mix of emotions, ranging from excitement at best to uncertainty and dread at its worst. Whether due to a promotion within the organization or an external hire, adapting to a new leadership style and establishing rapport with a new manager presents unique challenges to those established team members who’ve been holding down the fort. In this article, we'll explore the challenges inherent in welcoming a new boss, offer practical strategies for fostering a strong partnership within the critical first 90 days, and explore the potential for personal and professional growth under new leadership.


New Bosses are Terrifying

Even if you hated your old boss and you’re glad they’re gone, navigating the transition to a new boss is a process fraught with uncertainty and complexity. As we bid farewell to familiar leadership and welcome a new face at the helm, we often encounter a myriad of changes that can disrupt the dynamics of the workplace we’ve grown accustomed to thriving within.

Uncertainty and Anxiety: Transitioning to a new boss often brings uncertainty about changes in expectations, communication styles, and decision-making processes. We commonly experience anxiety about how our roles will evolve and whether they align with the new leader's vision.

Cultural Shifts: A new boss may bring different cultural norms, expectations, priorities, and approaches to the organization. Those accustomed to the previous leader's management style may struggle to adapt to new expectations and ways of working.

Building Trust: Trust is the foundation of any successful working relationship, yet building trust with a new boss takes time. Some may be apprehensive about whether their new manager will readily understand their capabilities, value their contributions, and support their growth.

Resisting Change: Human nature often resists change, and we may be resistant to embracing a new boss, especially if we’re loyal to the previous leader. This change resistance can manifest as skepticism, reluctance to adopt new practices, or even unconscious passive-aggressive behavior.


Practical Strategies for Developing a Strong Partnership

Although it’s natural to experience apprehension and insecurity when adjusting to a new boss, it usually becomes readily apparent that the best approach involves proactive measures to navigate this transition effectively. Even when it seems better to lay low and let the new boss come to you, we must embrace a few practical strategies aimed at fostering collaboration and mutual understanding within the first few months. By transitioning from focusing on the difficulties of acclimating to new leadership to a proactive stance centered on actionable strategies, most of us can pave the way for a smooth transition period and a productive partnership.


👉🏼 Be a Proactive Communicator

Initiate open and honest communication with your new boss from the beginning. Schedule one-on-one meetings to introduce yourself, share your goals and responsibilities, and express your willingness to support their leadership transition. Be prepared to discuss the challenges you and your department face, and forthcoming with the objective insights your boss needs to orient themselves to their new role.

👉🏼 Seek Clarity

Clarify expectations by discussing priorities, goals, and performance metrics with your new boss. Understand their leadership style, preferred communication channels, and decision-making processes to align your work accordingly. Think ahead about your working style preferences as well, and don’t be afraid to let your new boss know what they can do to maintain and enhance your performance.   


👉🏼 Demonstrate Adaptability

Demonstrate flexibility and adaptability in response to changes initiated by your new boss. Be open to trying new approaches, accepting feedback, and adjusting your strategies to meet evolving expectations. Resist the urge to dig into the way things have always been done and challenge yourself to see the potential in proposed changes.  


👉🏼 Build Rapport

Invest time in building rapport with your new boss by showing genuine interest in their background, experiences, and leadership philosophy. Let your leader be your guide and respond in kind when they share personal and/or professional stories designed to build connection. Actively listen to find common ground and opportunities to collaborate, fostering a sense of mutual respect and trust.


👉🏼 Prove Your Value

Although it can seem a little ingratiating, it’s important for your new boss to understand how you add value to your organization. Don’t hesitate to showcase your skills, expertise, and commitment to success by delivering high-quality work and exceeding expectations. Demonstrate initiative, problem-solving abilities, and a proactive attitude to earn your new boss's confidence in your capabilities. Wherever possible, show your appreciation for the value-added contributions of peers by highlighting the achievements of colleagues and cross-functional teams.


👉🏼 Solicit Feedback

Be brave and actively seek feedback from your new boss to gauge your performance, identify areas for improvement, and align your development goals with organizational objectives. Use feedback as a tool for continuous growth and professional development, and embrace any wisdom a new leader is willing to share to enhance your performance. Their fresh vantage point can prove invaluable when it comes to career growth opportunities.   


At the end of the day, we have to keep in mind that although transitioning to a new boss is an uncertain and sometimes uncomfortable process, it’s also a tremendous opportunity for growth. New leaders often bring a fresh perspective that challenges conventional thinking, broadens horizons, and inspires innovation. They also commonly usher in new opportunities for career advancement and skill development because their success is tied to your success. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on your professional strengths and receive the mentorship you need to evolve your career to the next level. Don’t miss this chance to develop a strong connection with your new leader by receding into the background and hoping not to draw attention. Be proactive, be forthcoming with information about yourself, advocate for your function, your team, and your department, and see what wonderful things come from making a new boss feel supported through a transition that’s challenging for everyone involved.

Headshot of Danielle Terranova

Danielle Terranova is the voice behind Leadership Lessons with Danielle.

She has been an executive coach since 2015 and owner of Terranova Consulting, LLC since 2019.


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