5 Ways to Impress a New Boss

Feb 13, 2012
7 Min Read

Let’s say you’ve worked hard for several years. You’ve put in overtime, volunteered for difficult projects and spent hours honing up on the boss’s favorite sport (hockey) so you could converse about the “five hole” without sounding like a total putz.

Then one day you learn the boss is leaving for another job. Before you can say Wayne Gretzky, you’ve got a new supervisor who knows nothing about the time you missed your birthday dinner to help deliver a key project on time. Or the fact that you won over one of the most difficult customers with finesse and professionalism. To top it off, this boss likes to talk about cooking.


You’re trying not to panic, but you fear your hard work has been for nothing. Are you going to have to start all over, keeping up a grueling schedule just to prove yourself to the new boss? To top it off, you’re going to have to figure out who – or what – is a “Barefoot Contessa.”

In some ways, it will be a new beginning for you. But it can be a positive one, as well. Just as your new boss may not know of all your contributions, he or she also is probably unaware of some of your goofs in the past. That means that starting fresh doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

When you get a new boss, your tendency may be to launch a personal publicity campaign, extolling your virtues so that he or she will know you shouldn’t be lumped in with the rest of the office riff-raff.

That’s a mistake.

Why? Because to get off on the right foot with a new supervisor, you need to spend more time listening than talking. It’s tempting to just trot out your personal branding statement and direct him to your blog to learn more about you. Don’t. Give the relationship time to develop so you don’t look pompous or arrogant.

If you want to get off on the right foot with a new boss:

1. Pay attention to even minor details. Does the new boss like to dress more professionally? Start wearing a tie and ditch the ratty Uggs. Does she use certain business jargon? Start peppering your own speech with it – bosses like to communicate with those they believe “get it.”

2. Align your goals. Don’t hold on to former goals set by your old boss. It’s a new day, so tackle your performance goals and make sure they’re in line with the new focus of the boss. Bring to the boss’s attention any experience you have in areas that are key targets.

3. Be open to change. New bosses are often very leery about how much resistance they will meet with a new staff. Sometimes they want to bring in their own people who they feel will support them and their agenda. Make sure the new boss understands immediately that you’re not going to cling to old ways, but are ready to embrace new strategies and ideas. Contribute your own ideas about how the boss’s objectives can be met.

4. Do your homework. Find out where the new boss worked before, and if any former employees or colleagues can offer some insight into her work style. What are her pet peeves? Does she hate emails and prefers texts? Check out social media and see if you can gain any insight from her Facebook page or tweets. Does her LinkedIn profile mention certain philanthropic groups? The more information you gather, the better you will connect with the boss and form a solid working relationship.

5. Demonstrate your worth. One of the key things you have going for you is knowledge of your company. You have information to share about other departments, how the managers function and key employees. This will be critical information for a new boss hoping to make her mark as soon as possible. By offering your insight, you can be seen as helping the boss, not pushing your own agenda. Make sure, however, that the information you’re offering is not gossip. You want to be seen as professional, not petty.

Finally, even though you may be frustrated that you will have to prove yourself all over again in some ways, it’s also an opportunity for you. Different bosses have different strengths and weaknesses, and a new supervisor is a chance for you to learn from those strengths. Perhaps the new boss gives excellent presentations or runs meetings efficiently – these are all skills future leaders need. Look at this as a chance to become better prepared for your future.

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