No matter how many years you have worked, starting to work with a new boss is always a challenge. Even more so if it results from our decision to change the workplace and move to a completely new environment. There are so many unknowns to discover, and one of the question marks concerns your new boss.
The difficulty level increases if you work in an international environment. If your new boss is a foreigner, you will have to overcome cultural and language barriers. And if your new boss is of a nationality you haven't worked with before, the greater the challenge you face.
How to wisely build a relationship with your new boss?
Is it possible to wisely prepare for cooperation with a new boss? What can you do to positively impact this collaboration? What elements should you pay special attention to to build a good relationship with your new boss?
You will find answers to the above questions below. These are specific tips on how to start wisely and successfully develop cooperation with your new boss.
Understand the expectations of your new boss
A new boss is a new chapter in your professional life, which will be co-created by someone other than your current boss. It's a change! Just accepting the fact that you are dealing with change and that it is up to you how you adapt to this change can help you avoid serious mistakes.
Your new boss will likely have different expectations of you and your team, a different view of the direction of your department, different ways of communicating, and maybe even different priorities. Part of managing your career (and your boss) is taking an active role in gaining a good understanding of what your new boss expects from you. Don't assume, don't guess - talk, ask, and explain. In particular, be sensitive to your natural desire to do things as you have always done them and your understanding of "best practices". Your boss may come with an understanding that is different from yours.
Identify the mentality and management style of your new boss
This element can be of great importance, especially if your boss is a foreigner. The influence of the national culture in which we grew up has an extremely important, and often very underestimated, impact on how we understand the common pursuit of goals, what our attitude towards authorities and hierarchy is, how we understand cooperation with other people, how we build relationships with others, how we communicate and how we express our thoughts and emotions.
In this area, it is worth reading the dedicated post available on our blog entitled: Cultural Types - Lewis' Model, which explains in a very practical way what to pay special attention to when working with representatives of particular nationalities and cultures.
Moreover, if your new boss comes to our country for the first time - he is struggling with a huge change himself. He may need time to get over it. If you think it's worth it, you can offer your selfless help in explaining the nuances of our culture or dealing with everyday matters for which the language barrier is a problem. Even if your boss doesn't show it directly, he will appreciate it.
Understanding the new boss's mentality and his preferred management style is all about looking at him as a person and trying to understand what kind of person he is. What does he like, what does he avoid, what is his personality, what talents, what interests? Does he follow any values in life? Each of us carries with us a unique way of perceiving the world and natural preferences that influence our behavior and communication with others. When building a relationship with your new boss, it may be crucial to understand the following two elements:
what are the preferences of the new boss when it comes to obtaining and processing information
what are the preferences of the new boss when it comes to making decisions
You can read more about this in two columns entitled: How to deal with a difficult boss?
Understanding these two elements can have an extremely positive impact on your communication with your boss and, therefore, on how YOU will be perceived by HIM.
Ask for your new boss's "user manual"
A good boss should do this himself, during one of the first individual conversations with you. If he doesn't do it, actively ask for it yourself. What do I mean by "boss's manual"?
There are many practical tips for everyday, ongoing cooperation, such as:
Will you have regular one-on-one meetings?
If so, what is expected of you during these meetings?
Does the office have an "open door" policy? Can you come to him anytime or call him while working remotely?
What are his expectations regarding your work remotely?
Do you prefer direct conversations or e-mails in your communication?
What decisions can you make on your own without his involvement?
If there are no regular one-on-one meetings - how often are you supposed to keep him updated on your progress?
What e-mails should you copy him on, especially when communicating with people from other departments or outside the company?
This is probably not an exhaustive list of items that should be clearly defined at the very beginning. A lot depends on the culture of the company where you work and the individual preferences of your boss.
Therefore, after possibly completing the above list, it is worth asking your boss one last question:
Is there anything else that is important to you, boss, that I haven't asked about?
The answer to this one question can make a lot of difference to your relationship.
Understand your new boss's personal priorities
After some time, when the boss looks around a bit and gets to know the realities of his job better, it is worth asking him directly about his priorities and what is important to him now. Depending on the caliber of the boss's position and the complexity of the challenge he or she faces, it may take 1-3 months. God forbid, don't ask such questions at the very beginning! First, on the one hand, it may be perceived by your boss as intrusive or even malicious behavior (or worse, as a stupid question). Secondly, not wanting to lose face, the new boss will give you an answer, but it will have nothing to do with the truth and his true ability to answer such questions. Like each of us, he needs time to understand the situation and consciously choose a specific course.
Especially a question like "Boss, what is most important to you at this stage?" It can contribute a lot to your cooperation and save you unnecessary efforts, misunderstandings, or even frustration. Please note that this is a question about what this person cares about - not a question about the company's goals or vision/mission.
We often do not know what pressure our bosses are under, what they are struggling with, and why they make certain decisions. The higher the position in the company's hierarchy, the more influence company policy has. Therefore, you may be surprised when the answer to this question has nothing to do with your officially set goals. And if this happens - take it at face value. Because it's a signal that your new boss trusts you.
Regularly collect feedback from your new boss
Regularly collect feedback from your new boss. The worst that can happen on this topic is silence on both sides. And the unexpressed doubts, speculations, or even fears that grow over time. It's like you started building a house together and for the first few months, you didn't talk at all about how it was going. After a few months, it may be too late to correct it, it should have been corrected much earlier.
A good boss should provide you with regular feedback. Moreover, a good and wise boss should ask for your feedback and comments about his decisions or behavior. However, if for some reason he does not do it (yet, e.g. because he is stressed enough in his new role) - be active in regularly asking for his assessment. And of course, do it in a direct, one-on-one conversation.
The following questions can help you collect feedback from your boss:
How do you rate my work, boss?
what am I doing right?
what could I do better?
If I didn't meet your expectations, what would you do in my place, how would you do it?
How could I better help you achieve your goals, boss?
Boss, what is one thing I should know about you to make our cooperation even better?
Boss, what would you say is the one thing I do that takes us away from success?
Practice mature assertiveness and wisely set boundaries for your new boss
From your first meeting with your current boss, you can set the tone for how you are treated at work. In fact, you are teaching people how to treat you - especially your new boss. Paradoxically, a wise and strong boss will appreciate your character, and the fact that you have your own opinion, know your limits, and defend them wisely. Over time, he will value your opinion more and more because he will know that you are not fawning over him, but are acting by your values, beliefs, and goals. You say what you think and do what you say you will do. This is how trust and credibility are built.
Valuable tips on how to practice mature assertiveness at work can be found in the following dedicated columns:
The art of mature assertiveness is not easy. It requires knowing yourself well, defining your boundaries, needs, and goals, as well as courage, flexibility, consistency, and discipline in practicing it. This is how a person's character is tempered. It's very easy to blame the "hopeless boss" and make the neat excuse that he is responsible for YOUR well-being.
But first, you need to know what you want and what you do not agree to. Thanks to this, you will also know what good things you want to learn from your new boss and what you will not take from him. If you try to please your boss at all costs, you will lose yourself. This is a very high price.
And what's more: in life, the reward for being good is... depression.
One last thought to consider about building a relationship with your new boss
In fact, there is no universal or simple recipe for improving the ability to get along (and cooperate effectively) with a new boss. But the good news is that you won't make big mistakes if you know how to ask the right questions.
As the wise saying goes: "Be a good listener. Your ears will not get you in trouble."
In any relationship, you can only really be responsible for yourself. Therefore, full success requires both parties' willingness, wisdom, and skills. Every person is unique, including you and your new boss. This invariably means that some of the questions provided here may not apply, given your current situation and the status of your relationship.
But the general rule still applies: you can actively take responsibility for your part of the relationship and honestly influence the whole. At the same time, you will hone the invaluable skill of managing any boss, which is invaluable in today's business world and undoubtedly affects your professional career.