Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Working for a new boss – Part 2: when your new boss is a new hire

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 26, 2010

When your new boss is a new hire, they are simultaneously learning their way around in a new business and getting started in working with their own supervisor, and meeting and getting started with the team they are to lead. I do not necessarily recommend that you suggest that your new-hire supervisor review a resource such as I have developed in my Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation series (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 73 through 88) but I would recommend that you review this yourself and certainly if it has been a long time since you started working with a new company as your employer. You need to understand the issues and priorities and the uncertainties that your new supervisor is facing and both in developing a working relationship with their supervisor and in establishing themselves with their new employer as a whole, plus establishing themselves with their new team they are to lead.

In this, you probably take a lot of details and approaches for granted that your new supervisor does not know yet, and about operational and organizational processes and who knows and does what, and about corporate culture issues. So the first and perhaps most important issue I could bring up here to discuss is in striving to see this introductory and transition period through the eyes of your new supervisor as well as through your own and those of your team member peers.

At the same time you need to learn about your supervisor as an employee and as a manager. What is their management style that they bring with them to their new job? Your new supervisor’s boss, your boss’ boss probably has something of an idea as to what that is like from meeting and talking with them and getting to know them a bit as a person. You need to know this too and in progressively greater detail. So to cite one very important issue as a working example, you need to learn your new supervisor’s communications preferences, and both for how much detail they need and want and on what issues, and in what format they prefer this data and information to arrive in. Do they prefer face to face meetings, and if so do they prefer one to one or team meetings where everyone can be updated at once? Do they prefer emails and written text or do they like to see excel spreadsheets and related data oriented formats so they can look over at least samples of the data you deal with? Do they prefer Powerpoint or similar presentations? Do they like and use instant messaging? Very few people always prefer the same approach and format for all types of information and under all circumstances, of specialty, confidentiality and other criteria. Learn what your new supervisor prefers and is most accessible through and with what frequencies and with what levels of detail and for what, and you have taken a major step towards effectively working with them. There is definitely a learning curve here and for both sides of the table as your new supervisor learns what they need to see themselves, as important to what priority levels.

And remember that your new supervisor is going through that same learning curve and more with their new supervisor too and learning what the business itself is like and quite probably getting settled into a new home with all that can be involved there – new schools for their children if they have any and so on.

As you start to get to know your new boss, look for opportunities to find out what their career agenda is. This is important, and while the basic issue as a generic concept comes up in any new supervisor situation, a new to the company, new supervisor can add some extra considerations. For one thing, this is where you are most likely to see a new supervisor has taken this position as a stepping stone along a larger career path that may not involve even staying with this organization. Let me clarify that abstraction with a more specific example.

Nonprofits, as discussed in several postings in my series Nonprofits and Social Networking devote as large a percentage of their incoming revenue stream as possible towards fulfilling their mission and vision. Good nonprofits do that, at any rate. Payroll, for most organizations is among the largest fixed operating expenses faced so one way to accomplish this and maintain a nonprofit status is to limit headcount to the minimum. This means everyone on-staff can and does wear several or even many hats but more importantly for this discussion it means there is usually very little room for promotion within an organization, and even for the top performers there. People are more likely to advance in a nonprofit system by moving between nonprofit organizations, looking for the wider range of next level up opportunities that may be available across an entire nonprofit sector even if not with any one organizational member of that sector. And even by nonprofit, advance by moving on standards some people look harder and faster for that next move up than would be the norm. And to succeed at that, they are going to need good and impressive bullet points that they can add to their resume and they are going to need to add them quickly.

Under these circumstances – and yes I have a specific example in mind from my own work experience, a new supervisor can come in with something of an empire building mentality that they put their mark on their team and their part of the organization, and even if just for short term and unsustainable gains. Yes, I intentionally cite a negative example here even though most new supervisors strive to develop longer term value. Keep open eyes and an open mind and strive to help your new supervisor succeed, and look to your own long term interests and career needs too while doing that. And this all starts with your understanding them and in helping them get to know and understand you and your team and the issues and challenges you collectively face – and the positive opportunities too.

So in a fundamental sense you are in the position of starting a new job here too. And your first performance review with this new supervisor will be your end-of-probationary period review. So read my series on Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 73 through 88) for your own use too.

My next posting in this series will be on working with a new supervisor moved to manage your team from within the organization, either as a lateral move or as a promotion.

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