Few professional moments are more anxiety-inducing than the arrival of a new manager. Will anyone be fired? How will things change? What if the two of you just don’t get along?
Anxiety is a natural reaction. Whether you loved your previous boss or — well, didn’t, you’d likely developed a good sense of how they worked and what they expected from you. Now, you’ll have to build a new working relationship from scratch.
But here’s the good news: Getting a new manager doesn’t have to be a setback. On the contrary, it can be the perfect opportunity to take the next step in your career.
Here’s what you should do right away to make the most of the change.
- Help them get up to speed
Eventually, they’ll be running the show. But for now, your new boss is just trying to find their way around.
Without being gossipy, give your manager a heads-up on team and company dynamics and point out the people in other departments they might find useful to know. “Be proactive and anticipate what your new manager needs to know,” says author and executive coach Dan McCarthy. “Don’t just keep your head down and wait to be noticed.”
Even the simplest insights, like the quirks of the filing system or the inside scoop on whether the coffee is any good, can go a long way in demonstrating that you’re someone who can be counted on.
What you might say: “Melissa in sales is like a walking encyclopedia. Our team has collaborated a bunch with her this year. If you ever want the low-down on one of our customers, she’s an amazing resource!”
Why it works: You’re not just pointing out people at random — you’re anticipating who your manager will want to prioritize connecting with. In the process, you’re proving that you have a strong grasp of how the company operates.
- Be candid (to a point) about how your team can improve
Whether your former boss was let go or simply moved on, you probably have some theories of how your team could do better. Are you missing opportunities? Struggling with communication? A good manager will appreciate constructive analysis.
That said, be sure not to bad-mouth your coworkers or assign blame. “Have a good attitude,” McCarthy advises. “ You’ll make a much better impression if you’re optimistic and enthusiastic than if you’re whiney and skeptical.”
After all, who wants to work with a complainer?
What you might say: “Lately we’ve had some miscommunication issues that have caused us to miss deadlines. It might help if we agreed as a group to a standard workflow for our regular projects so we can track our progress and make sure we’re on schedule.”
Why it works: Instead of passing the buck, you’re identifying an issue that impacts your ability to do your job. Most importantly, you’re offering a thoughtful way the problem might be solved.
- Highlight your accomplishments and tell them your strengths
Consider this scenario the exception to the age-old rule, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Because here’s the thing to keep in mind: Your new manager doesn’t know you! They need you to help them understand how you can best contribute.
But you’ll need to act fast. “Good leaders can size up a new team within the first few weeks,” McCarthy explains. “If you’re good at what you do, they’ll pick up on it, and if you’re not, not much else will matter.”
Be prepared to speak about your biggest accomplishments and any projects you’re currently working on that have you excited. Be specific: What are you good at?
If speaking well of yourself doesn’t come naturally, consider things from your boss’s point of view: If they have a better grasp of your skills, they’ll be able to put you to work more effectively. It’s a win-win!
What you might say: “One of the most useful things I bring to the table is that I’m an experienced photographer. I actually helped to revamp the company Instagram page and increased our followers by 15 percent.”
Why it works: You’ve tied your skill (photography) directly to an outcome your manager can benefit from (a bigger social media following), while also proving that you have a track record of success.
- Ask for more responsibility
Is there a shiny new project you’ve been eyeing that would look great on your resume? A new skill you’d love to learn? Or maybe you’d like to shift your role altogether? Now is a great time to make it happen. Ask yourself:
Is there anything I’m doing now that isn’t a good use of my time? What could I be doing with that time instead?
Do I have a skill that’s being underutilized?
Is there a project I’ve been thinking about that I’d like to take the lead on?
Did my former boss have any responsibilities I could offer to take off my new manager’s plate?
Of course, there are no guarantees, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask. “The best leaders will take the time to sit back, observe, and ask questions when they first arrive,” says McCarthy. That means they’re already considering what to keep and what to change, and are likely to take your proposals into account now more than ever.
What you might say: “I helped my former manager plan and write our blogs, which I really enjoyed. I’d be happy to take on management of our editorial calendar moving forward, if that would be helpful for you!”
Why it works: You’re being direct, but not entitled. Instead of asking your new manager to read your mind, you’re clear about your goals while also offering to make their life easier.
- Ask good questions
As in any professional setting, asking the right questions can go a long way. There’s no need to play guessing games with your new boss! Clarity will benefit both of you.
Consider asking questions like:
How would you describe your management style?
How do you prefer to communicate? (Email? Slack? Meetings?)
What are you looking for from someone in my role?
What do you think is working (or not working) about our team’s current approach?
How hands-on would you like to be in my projects and day-to-day work?
By asking the right questions, you can be sure to get off on the right foot and establish a clear understanding of your new manager’s expectations.
What you might say: “Is it OK to interrupt you when I have questions or updates about my work? Or would you rather I send you an email or schedule a meeting to talk things through?”
Why it works: Your new boss will appreciate that you’re being considerate of their time, while you’ll never have to second-guess whether you’re doing the right thing.
When it comes to getting a new manager, McCarthy says that the most important thing you can do is to embrace the inevitable change that comes with them. “Be open to change,” he says. “Don’t listen in order to evaluate; listen for possibilities.”
As with anything new, remember that growing pains are totally normal. You may feel unsure or even a little awkward at first, but if you’re proactive and positive, getting a new boss can be the perfect opportunity to build a strong professional relationship and more interesting responsibilities.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and wow ‘em!