Q. I have been at my company for almost 20 years. I have risen through the ranks, getting promotions and good assignments pretty regularly, with good evaluations and raises – until now. I always felt like I could work with and even for anybody. So I have a new boss, because my old boss was promoted. This guy thinks I can do no right, and need to be micromanaged. He doesn’t like me, and it shows. So – will he fire me after 20 years here? Do I try to wait him out, or pack my boxes?
A. You have 20 years of success behind you. To have accomplished that, you must be able to adjust your communication style and your ability to manage up. So don’t pack the boxes yet.
Any change in reporting structure is a challenge, for the new manager and the staff reporting to the new leader. Direct reports assume the new leader knows what he or she is doing, and that is often not the case. Is your new boss an experienced manager? Does he have a positive track record within the organization or elsewhere? You may be seeing behaviors that tie to insecurity as a leader, or management practices that have served him well in the past, but aren’t the way you are best managed. Is there more to this situation? Were you considered for this role and passed over? Whatever the case, there are ways to build a stronger reporting relationship, and ultimately, as the direct report, it’s up to you.
Make the effort to review your new boss’ management style. The way to make this work is to develop a deep understanding of your new boss and what matters to him as he plans to be successful. Is this a person who needs to see data, a written plan, more regular progress reports or something else? You can ask him directly, or you can find out from colleagues what seems to work best. If you do discuss the boss and the relationship with others, do not bad mouth him to your colleagues. Don’t make the situation worse by setting up any kind of battle lines. Employees often want to make sure they are not alone, and that others dislike the boss as much as they do. This won’t help you.
Your goal is to make it clear to your boss that you are a team player, sincere in your desire to continue to do great work for the company, and to help him succeed. If he treats you unfairly or poorly in front of colleagues, he will lose credibility with them. Ensure you do not show any animosity or disrespect in front of others or even privately. You may not like his style, his need to micromanage or even him as a person, but he is your boss. If he knows you can help him succeed, won’t undermine him or his authority, you many be able to lose the target he has on you.
Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners