How to manage changing bosses
It’s surprising the things you don’t notice when it’s happening to you. When trying to decide on a topic for my first blog, a friend and ex-colleague pointed out that I had changed ‘bosses’ a lot. At first I was a little affronted
“I haven’t had that many changes!”
But, when I thought about her statement, I realised that I have experienced five changes, with a sixth upon me as I write. While this might not sound like a lot, the context paints a different picture. I am experiencing my sixth change in a seven-year period – that’s almost a new ‘boss’ every year.
I realised with some horror that she was right and that led me to think about what I have learnt, and what I’m doing differently now to manage the change, compared to that first time. I’m not ashamed to admit that my first change of ‘boss’ was a complete shambles.
Getting it wrong!
I was a new PA and filled with the enthusiasm and confidence of youth. However, this meant that I had a total lack of experience and some naivety.
The change happened quickly and quite unexpectedly. On Monday morning we were informed that our Director (my boss) would not be returning. On Tuesday we were introduced to a consultant (my new boss) who would oversee the directorate for a minimum of 6 months. I wasn’t completely naive, I expected a few minor changes but certainly not to my actual role and the meetings I attended.
Not once did I consider sitting down to discuss their needs and expectations. A big mistake and one I’m sure is only made by those of us new to the profession and still finding our feet.
Within a month, morale was down, the senior team was disorganised and I was branded as a poor PA that didn’t understand what was important. In some respects, this was true; I knew what was important before the change and the expectations that had been placed on both of us. By not spending time with the new person to establish our roles – working out their expectations and building a relationship with them, I hadn’t moved with the times and therefore was missing out on what was important now.
What did I learn from changing bosses?
This experience and my subsequent experiences gave me five things to remember for all future changes and three things that I definitely shouldn’t do:
1. In some respects, this is a new role. Spend time with your new bosses and build a relationship, and establish expectations on both sides.
2. You have knowledge, connections and relationships they don’t. Use them to assist and make their transition to the role easier.
3. You know your colleagues and have their trust. Use this by informing your bosses of their concerns.
4. To expect and embrace change. This will help you, your boss and your colleagues.
5. To advise on regular meetings and suggest stability for a 3-month period. This will help ease any anxiety of your colleagues and give the new ‘boss’ a chance to get their feet under the table.
1. Assume nothing will change when bosses are being changed.
2. Say things like ‘we’ve always done it this way’.
3. Make changes without checking first, even if you would have done previously.
Thanks to these very simple points my changes have become a lot smoother than that first time and I’m confident that my sixth, and future changes, will also go well.
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