IT Employment

Three tips for adjusting to a new boss

With the current state of IT job flux, odds are that either you'll be changing jobs soon, or a new boss will be taking the reins where you work. Here are some tips for forging a good relationship with the latest head honcho.

As a consultant, you’re used to moving from project to project, job to job, perhaps even from city to city. You’ve learned how to adjust rapidly to a new living environment, new technological tools, new responsibilities, and a new work ethos.

But how about adjusting to a new boss? If recent research is accurate, it’s almost certain that you’ll have a new boss sooner or later. A recent survey from the META Group, for example, reveals that IT staff turnover rates jumped to 11.4 percent last year, as compared to just 8.4 percent in 1999.

If you’re moving into a new job, there’s no question that you’ll be adjusting to a new management style when you begin working with a new supervisor.

“When you’re new, you’re being analyzed by lots of people,” said Nilesh M. (last name omitted on request), a consultant at Icarian—a hosted software and business solutions provider based in Sunnyvale, CA. “[They are evaluating] how you work, how much commitment you have to the new place and people, your sincerity, and your abilities to pick things up fast.”

Whether you’re the newcomer or your boss is, it’s up to you to make—and sustain—a great first impression. Here are some tips for making the best of your relationship with the new boss.

Get a clear picture of the boss’s expectations
What exactly does your boss expect from you? “The best way to find out is to ask,” said Laurie Wien, a Maryland-based career advisor. “That way, you [prevent] any gaps in communication.” And that move could start your relationship off on a good note. Mark Alver, an IT manager at a Maryland-based insurance company says, “I always appreciate the direct approach, and any efforts to establish a good relationship make a good impression.”

Do some investigating around the office to find answers to these questions: What is your supervisor’s preferred style of working? What are his or her strengths? Is his or her management style casual or formal? Will he or she accept more casual dress at the office, or will jackets and ties be preferred?

Communicate what you need to do your job well
Remember that because your boss may be new to the organization, he or she may be unaware of your strengths and abilities, so it is important that you make that information available. Keep him or her informed of the assignments you are working on, the decisions you are making, and what reasons you have for making them. Documentation can be a big help in that effort, and it will certainly help keep you organized.

If you’re the one that’s new to the organization, don’t be afraid to tell your boss what resources you feel you need in order to be productive and efficient in your position.

Go out of your way to solve problems
As a rule, you should always strive to seek solutions to problems rather than just push them off onto your boss’s desk. Nilesh relates this example of how following that advice can pay off: “There was a deadline to meet, and development work had come to a standstill because of a bug—which was reported to the licensed software vendor, but they were unable to diagnose it,” he recalls. “I went through the code line by line and discovered the real problem. That took pressure off not only my group but also a few other groups who were very keen on meeting the deadline. The director of development came in person to tell me that I had done a good job,” said Nilesh. “From that point on, I was always treated with respect.”

But having a good rapport with the boss is quite different from being self-effacing. Speak up if you do not agree or if you have a different point of view. Don’t lose your identity in trying to adjust to the boss. Be careful, however, not to overstep the relationship by acting without consulting your boss or by keeping him or her in the dark about your projects. “There is a particular danger of this happening when a peer becomes the boss,” says consultant Amitabh Mehra. “You may still consider him to be ‘one of the gang.’ But his responsibilities have changed, and now he must treat you in a different way. In such a case, being professional would always mean placing the interests of the organization first.”

Often, the changes that a new supervisor brings in can be very positive for your organization. Look at those changes as opportunities and challenges, and you’ll find that working with your new boss is far easier than you anticipated.
How do you adjust to a new supervisor? Do you have a unique method for building rapport and earning respect? Post a comment below or send us a note.
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