Dear Matt: I just took a new job, but I didn’t know that a former manager I once struggled with is the department lead — my boss’s boss. How can I bury the past and move forward with this person?
Matt says: It’s important to understand what you mean when you say you “struggled” with this manager, says Robin Silverman, Senior Consultant, Talent Management, with the Edina office of Right Management (right.com), a global leader in talent and career management workforce solutions.
Do you simply not like his personality or way of managing? Did you actively argue with him? Was he hard on your performance? Did he influence others in ways that made it difficult for you to succeed? Try to clarify what specifically happened so you can rein in your fears. In addition, you don’t mention how many years or jobs have passed since the two of you worked together.
“Time and experience change people,” says Silverman, “so it’s possible that the reasons why the two of you struggled may no longer be true.”
Look forward, says Silverman. After all, he likely knows about you being hired and could possibly have approved it.
“Because of that, it’s possible that whatever fence needed to be mended is, in his mind at least, done,” says Silverman. “Perhaps it’s time for you to do the same.”
When you arrive on the job, stop by his office or go to a meeting he’s attending. Be sure to say hello and shake hands. If his response to you is kind, you’ll know the past is the past and it’s time for you to let it go. If he brings up the past in a negative way, suggest that the two of you to meet privately to resolve any lingering differences and focus on helping the new organization succeed.
Find a way to learn from this by considering these tips, says Silverman:
• If your performance was previously deficient, what did you learn that will enable your success this time?
• If you didn’t like his personality, ask HR if you can take an assessment like DISC or BEST that can help you adapt your behavior and communication style to that of others who are not like you.
• If you argued with him, are you willing to question the story that made you feel you needed to defend or attack him? A good resource for doing this is Byron Katie’s book, “Loving What Is.”
• If you talked badly about him behind his back or tried to influence others against him, are you willing to apologize?
• Can you build on what you have in common, rather than what separates you?
“Every new job is a new beginning,” says Silverman. “Jettison your stale, limiting or unhelpful beliefs and replace them with the intention to fit in, do your best work and succeed.”
Contact Matt at email@example.com.