Work long enough for an organization you’re bound to encounter a time when your boss moves on, replaced with someone else. If you’ve worked together for many years, it may seem odd to suddenly find yourself devoid of that relationship, especially if it was a productive one built on mutual respect.
I say it may be odd because when you spend years working together, you develop trust in each other, you know what to expect from each other, and you mutually invest in the relationship. It’s not policies and procedures that define a supervisor; it’s the little things like conversations at the start of the business day, inquiries about your family, your hobbies etc. It’s not so much the role of the person, in this case the boss; it’s the departure of someone who you came to develop a close working relationship with. You’d feel this same void if it was your office mate, the title of boss just adds a layer to the change.
Make no mistake, while your job didn’t change, with a change in supervisor, you still experience change. How you adapt to that change defines how well or poorly you perform moving forward. If you had a great boss – even a good boss, you will find yourself happy for them, especially if for a promotion or a lateral move they sought out. If they weren’t the best boss, you may find yourself grateful for the change, even euphoric; hopeful that the new boss will be a welcomed change from the former boss. Change however, it remains; change you must deal with.
Who replaces your boss is out of your control. Upper management usually determines what is needed in the office, factory floor or district. They may think a shake-up is required, some control re-established, or perhaps things need to remain exactly as they are. Depending on what upper management believes is required; you’ll find yourself with a new person in the role who best brings what is perceived to be needed. So you could find yourself with a new Sheriff in town if order needs to be restored, a Visionary if new direction is desired, a Whip Cracker if production needs increasing and some personnel changes are in order.
You could however, also discover that a clone replaces your boss; someone with similar characteristics in the role who doesn’t appear to be rocking the boat, making sweeping changes of any kind. This could be a strong signal that the team you work on, the department you work in, or the shift you work on is doing just fine the way it is. Not that complacency is encouraged, but this kind of change would indicate performance of the group you work within is appreciated.
There is an opportunity here for you when there is a changeover in your supervisor. In the first few days and weeks of the transition, you have a distinct advantage in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both yourself and your team. You could request a, ‘get-to-know-you’ meeting with the new boss, where you sit down and share your role, your strengths and what motivates you. It’s also where you can demonstrate some genuine interest in the boss; where they came from, what motivates them, what’s their leadership style, their expectations. Yes they probably schedule some team meeting, deliver some message to a larger audience, but this 1:1 meeting is about defining your personal relationship with the new boss.
What a great opportunity to mentor the boss! This could be where you share an individual project you are working on, any unofficial role you play on the team, where the team looks to you for leadership. It’s also a wonderful chance to share your motivation, what makes you tick, your philosophy of service, priorities; preferences you have for getting feedback.
The most important thing about this changeover and your encounters with the new boss is that you be genuine. If you are playing up your role on the team, inflating your own importance or being overly flattering of the new boss, they’ll likely spot you for what you are; disingenuous. It’s probable that they’ve already been briefed on the personnel on their new team anyhow.
One of the best decisions you can make early in the transition to a new boss is to get on board with the plans they have. Being resistant; possibly even defiant isn’t going to win you any favours or put you on solid ground. You may have the advantage of time on the team, but they have the legitimate power to effect change which comes with their position, and probably have the blessings of their superiors too. Unless their plans fly in the face of the organization or will cause you to lose your job, the sooner you adapt to the new direction and the new way of doing things, the better for you.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll have a new boss you’ll come to value as much as the previous boss you enjoyed working with. If the departure of your previous boss is good news for you, see this as a fresh start. People are never identical and it’s important not to compare the new with the old. See and evaluate the person for whom they are and support them as you would any new member to the team.