The phrase “hit the ground running” is a job starter cliché, especially if your new employer stipulated a lengthy probation period and your new boss turns out to be another tyrant. You have worked hard to get the job – so learn to stay clear of the ‘human minefield’. I have 10 tips that can turn the boss from hell into a pussycat and the battlefield into the greener pastures you had signed up for to begin with.
Ok – lets step back for a moment – how did you get here?
You couldn’t wait to get that job — and now you can’t wait to leave again, thanks to your new boss. It’s a situation that is, unfortunately, commonplace. Nearly half of my clients say they’ve worked for an unreasonable boss and so they quit. Is that a good response after all you have invested? Maybe your new boss is a micromanager or a bully or an insensitive, abusive, or just plain dysfunctional boofhead supervising you in a job you had hoped might lead to more meaningful work or greater accomplishments.
Believe it or not, your response to the situation may be the ticket to getting both. However, your real job is to make yourself as adaptable, responsive, intelligent, and skilful in as many situations as possible, and that includes in your relationship, be it good, bad, or in between, with the person who happens to be your boss. If you are able to accept that part,
“Then you can choose where you ultimately want to be.”
Tip No. 1 Do your homework
It always amazes me how many new employees forget to do their homework. It was one of the first give-aways that got my radar pinging as a boss. You should always do your homework on the organisation prior to the interview stage, but in the lead up to your first day step this up a notch.
Get up to date on as much as possible about the organisation from company reports and accounts to recent press releases which you’ll find in the media or press section of the corporate website. Internet searches will help you to find out what has been written or reported about your new employer. Try to learn what corporate social responsibility activity it gets involved in, what issues are close to its heart and what type of culture exists at the new company.
The more you know, the quicker you will be able to relate to it. Once you’ve started, continue to stay in tune with developments and make sure you stay up-to-date with the issues that might affect the organisation. Join discussion groups on LinkedIn, read the trade or business press and when time permits, attend conferences and exhibitions. Most importantly, check out your new boss online – LinkedIn or a Google Boolean search both should do the trick (after all, chances are your boss has checked you out online already).
Tip No. 2 Impress – Prove – Deliver
You must have passed the ‘impress’ part already – otherwise they would have hired someone else, so avoid trying to impress your new boss or co-workers with tall tales and quick solutions. Avoid making comparisons between your new company and your old company. Focus on what you need to do now, not what or how you did something in the past. It’s about proof now and the best way to prove your worth is by learning to fit in.
Yes, you were probably hired to replace someone else and make a positive change. It’s natural to want to impress your boss and co-workers by showing them your vision of how things should be, but trying to change things too early can threaten and alienate the very people you’re trying to make your allies (including your boss). Remember, you’re a stranger to her or him, so don’t try to deal with big issues right from the start. Spend time getting to know your company’s new culture, as well as the subcultures that are likely to exist in each team or environment. Once you have that sorted, you can start to work on your ‘deliver’ bit.
Tip No. 3 Make an appointment & ask meaningful questions.
In many organisations, the people who are promoted into management roles are commander and organiser types. Both types operate off a list and if you’re not on the to-do list, you’ll be ignored. Make an appointment to get on your boss’ radar.
Asking “gotta sec?” is not the same as making an appointment. It’s an interruption. Also, don’t ask your boss, “Are you busy?” This is like walking up to an airline counter with your suitcase and boarding pass in hand only to hear them ask, “checking in”?!
Tip No. 4 Get to the point and ask for what you need
Right or wrong, most bosses are Type A – they’re driven, competitive and don’t want to waste time. So, the faster you get to the point, the better. Avoid lengthy explanations, unless it includes action items. They tend to be annoying because it requires more time and concentration to process.
If you’re afraid to ask for what you need, you won’t get it. If you have a boss and you need a signature right now to make a deadline, ask them to sign now. If you simply leave it on his or her desk with a signature flag, you’ll likely be blamed for any delay.
Tip No. 5 Fuss over them and read between the lines
Certain boss types love to be ‘fussed over’ more than others, but who doesn’t like to be made to feel special? I am not suggesting that you start pirouetting up their behind … the phrase “it’s lonely at the top” exists for a reason and there’s a good chance your boss can’t really share most of what is going on with anyone. Just cover your boss’ back. Be helpful and ready to assist and see if it changes your perspective and his or hers.
Leaders who say, “When you get a minute …” usually mean, “can you do X right away?” Once you understand that code you won’t make the mistake of waiting to respond to what are actually subtle commands. Not reading your boss properly is one of the most common traps in the probation minefield.
Tip No. 6 Get a clue, speak up
If your bad boss just got chewed out by his or her boss, it’s not the right time to go in and ask for a favour or to leave early. Watch for clues to your boss’ mood, so that you don’t end up as a punching bag.
Oh and just because your boss hands you three projects that all take an hour and expects them all to be completed in 15 minutes doesn’t mean that you need to deliver miracles. Speak up by asking, “Out of these three projects, which one is top priority?” so you know how to meet their expectations. Expectation management is a very useful skill.
Tip No. 7 Take it professionally, not personally
When your boss is not addressing you properly or maybe even yells at you, it feels personal, but it’s often not. Open your ears and listen, nod, provide results as fast as possible and move on. You’re better served to ask if the reaction was all meant for you or directed toward you once they have cooled down. Then the answer is likely to be no and sometimes maybe even an apology.
My advice when you have to deal with taskmasters is: “Be brief, be bright and be gone.” The most important part of this phrase is “be bright”. If you’re bright, contributing, adding value, and helping your boss do what he or she does best, they won’t want you to be brief or be gone for long.
Tip No. 8 Stay fascinated
You know the feeling of being cut off in traffic… creative hand gestures usually help you to show your frustration at times, but who really hears you? If you stay fascinated, instead of frustrated, you might even be able to giggle when fascinated at how a boss can be such a jerk. People who work with you want to experience leaders and great team members. Show that you are a great contribution to the team. Giggling about tough situations is better than having to be Googling for a new job if your frustrations get you cut off the team. So, stay fascinated.
Tip No. 9 Save the labels and find your focus
When you slap labels on people then you’re part of the problem. Label your boss as bad, and you most likely expect him or her to act that way. Your expectations create your responses, your responses drive your behaviour and if you have problematic behaviour, well …. I guess you know the rest! Save the labels for mailing out your resume, and if it comes to that, we can help you.
If all you are looking for are the things your boss does wrong, then that’s all you’ll find. Instead, focus on what you want to see more of. Lead, be humble and show good manners and style.
Lastly – if all of that doesn’t work MOVE ON
No one wants to work in a position where the stress is high, the boss is crazy and you’re constantly upset or in fear for your job.
Bosses are people, too, and most are not intending to be difficult. They either don’t know how to handle stress or to lead people (or both!). There are solutions for both, but it’s you who suffers from their trial and error.
If you work with a bad manager or one who has been promoted, but isn’t suited for the job, or seems to have long ago lost the desire to care, recognise that these steps can work magic. Some of my tips may help you to ‘manage up’ and feel better about your job – not to mention help make the difficulties you’re having with a boss disappear. I have worked for a number of quirky bosses and I managed to survive them with my philosophy.
Let me know what you think or share some of your insights and tips and if you disagree with my approach, let us know via the comments section. And, if it doesn’t work out for you despite all the trying, get organised, start over and remember to always hunt wisely!