Reyer: Try getting to know tough new boss

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 8, 2012 - 6:55 PM

QMy branch office just got a new general manager, and he has been riding rough over everyone right from the start. He's not taking the time to get to know people and how we do things before firing people and making changes. What do we do?

ASeek a balance between waiting it out and looking out for yourselves as your new boss settles in.

The inner game

Settle back and relax, taking some deep breaths to get to a grounded state of mind. You'll need to take an objective look at recent events in order to plan constructive action.

To do this, it's important to let go of anger and frustration so that you can gain fresh perspective. Start by considering the reasons for your reactions. You may miss the previous GM, and wish things were back the way they used to be. The new boss' decisions may feel unfair, and may be frightening because the changes seem unpredictable.

Think from the boss' perspective for a moment. Just because he has the general manager position doesn't mean that he has the skills to move into his role gracefully. Particularly if he's new to management, he may be nervous, even intimidated, and his roughness may reflect the way he handles stressful situations. Yet he may have been sent to straighten out your branch if, for example, you're not following new corporate direction. From that view, are you sure you're doing the right things in the right way?

Now consider what you control in the situation. Your own reactions, of course, and that's where you need to start. If you've either been flaring up or withdrawing, examine the results this gets, and think about more effective ways to respond. You may also have influence over others' reactions, and may be able to help the team maintain as positive an attitude as possible.

The outer game

Many people come into a new role ready to make their mark, and often that translates into cleaning house. This is tough, particularly on teams that are performing well. But guard against creating an "us vs. him" environment; that'll only hurt all of you in the end.

Try getting to know him, perhaps taking him to lunch. Ask him about his vision for the branch, and learn more about his perspectives and experiences. As much as possible, give him some history of the branch, and your challenges and successes. Your goal is to make the branch and the team more real to him so that he isn't behaving in an absence of information. And also to learn how you may need to change.

It may be that he's just bad at his job, and that nothing you can do will improve it. In this case, you have a few options. Providing feedback to his higher-ups is an option, albeit a high-risk one. You can leave, perhaps seeking a transfer to a different branch. Or you and your colleagues can pull together in mutual support to make the best of it.

The last word

Bad bosses do come along, and a combination of education and self-reliance will help make the best of it.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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