You’ve worked for your current boss for years. You know how each other works, your strengths, your weaknesses. She remembers your son’s birthday every year. You know she always likes to take Black Friday off. Both of you know the company inside and out. All of the built-up experience allow your whole department to function with efficiency. Then comes the surprise announcement: she is leaving for another company. Coupled with your sadness at losing a valued co-worker, you’ll no doubt feel apprehension about your incoming boss. Who will take their position? Will you enjoy working with him or her? Will he or she value you and your contributions? How long will your department be in limbo?
A change in leadership can feel disruptive to your life at work. But, is upheaval a bad thing? Disruption is a powerful force that can be harnessed for good. It can be tempting to focus on the ways a new boss will upset your routine—which might be just what you need. Here are seven ways to embrace this change and let it drive you forward:
- Send-off. Before his or her departure, take time to thank your previous supervisor. Write him or her a short note expressing your appreciation. Name the specific traits you admire about him or her. Ensure you have means to stay in touch. You never know when you’ll end up working together again. It’s always wise to develop and maintain your network.
- Welcome. First impressions matter. You are laying the foundation for a relationship that will hopefully span years of your career. Take time to sincerely express to your boss that you look forward to working with him or her. Be genuine and warm, but don’t overdo it. People can smell if you’re disingenuous from a mile away.
- Communicate. Your new supervisor doesn’t know you or completely understand how your department works. Being conscientious to be clear in communication will keep things running smoothly. A quick email such as, “I’ll have the monthly numbers to you by Friday, like normal. Let me know if you prefer them differently” can keep everyone on the same page with processes and expectations. Strive to be clear, yet concise: your new supervisor has a lot to learn and absorb as he or she settles in.
- Reflect. Any shifts in your work life are natural opportunities to evaluate your career goals and take fresh steps to grow. How long have you been in this position? How have you developed and changed while you’ve been here? Are there any courses you’ve wanted to pursue or organizations you’ve wanted to join? Use the energy from the changes to propel new growth for yourself. Set some goals for the coming months.
- Evaluate. As you go over procedures and workflow with your new supervisor, don’t see it as a perfunctory exercise. Instead of simply transferring knowledge, approach it as a chance to innovate. Just because you’ve always done something one way, that doesn’t make it the best way. As you explain things to your boss, foster space to explore and improve. Bring your perspective on what’s worked well and be open to his or her outside insight. A fresh perspective can be an excellent check on the blind spots that over-familiarity brings.
- Grow. One of the benefits of having multiple supervisors is that each has unique experiences and skills. What are your new boss’s strengths? What expertise would you like to learn from him or her? What aspects of his or her approach can strengthen your own? In what ways does he or she approach the world that can expand your perspective? Working with and for multiple individuals will make you a more well-rounded—and marketable—employee.
- Relax. It will take a while for things to settle into a new, productive flow. Be patient with your boss, yourself, and the process. Transitions are stressful. Be aware of your emotions. It’s natural to be defensive if your boss questions why you do something. You may be more mentally fatigued. Give yourself extra margin during this adjustment period. They still don’t remember where you keep that spreadsheet on the company drive? You forgot his spouse’s name, even though you’ve met him or her? He is changing vendors and you have to get to know a new rep? Lower your expectations of productivity, or better yet, expand your definition. You won’t get as much accomplished, but you are executing a smooth transition. That is an important deliverable as well.
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee will stay in a position for just over four years. Between supervisor’s turnovers and your own, you will work with a number of new bosses across the span of your professional life. If you can embrace and capitalize on each opportunity, it can propel your career to new heights and make you a more adept, aware, and accomplished professional. With the right perspective and practices, it will not only be a new start for your new supervisor, but also for a new chapter in your career.
About Cheryl Hyatt and Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search
With over 20 years of executive-search consulting experience, Cheryl Hyatt has been responsible for successfully recruiting senior-administrative professionals for educational and non-profit organizations. Before partnering with Dr. Fennell, she was the President and owner of The Charitable Resources Group and provided not only executive search services but fundraising consulting expertise to the clients she served. Cheryl brings over 30 years of management and organizational leadership experience to her role with clients. Her breadth of experience, knowledge, and contacts makes her sought after professionally in her field. Ms. Hyatt has written articles and presented to various non-profit groups. She sits on various local non-profit boards offering a variety of expertise to each organization.
Hyatt-Fennell brings over 60 years of combined highly successful executive search expertise to its clients, a reputation for achieving results on the national and international level, and the ability to place top executives with higher educational institutions nationwide. The Executive Search firms of Gallagher~Fennell Higher Education Services and The Charitable Resources Group merged in 2010 to formalize their partnership and create Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search.