How Do You Deal With a New Boss?
One of our regular readers – and someone who asked our advice very early on in the legacy that has become AskTheManager.com – AngelCakes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan recently provided us with both an update on her management career and a new dilemma.
When we first heard from AC, she had just been promoted to a supervisory position in a retail shop and was facing substantial apathy and even antipathy from her charges. Not being one to quit in the face of such adversity, she turned to the Web for answers and stumbled upon AskTheManager.com. Desperate for advice, she gave us a shot at helping her cope with her new situation. (To read the advice we provided AC about her dilemma as a new manager, see our August 14 post.)
Back for more abuse, AC sent us the following this week:
I just wanted to send you the next challenge in the never-ending life that is retail management. But not without a little update first. Let me first add that the childishness of my store is no more. The resources that you gave me have left a huge impression in my memory and I practice what you preach every day. My staff has converted themselves into a well-oiled machine. They seek out the greater good and the bigger picture and that’s when everyone gets along the worlds a better place. The store itself has been running at full speed with a 25% increase in sales year-to-date (which is fantastic considering how “financially unstable” the world claims to be). All has been calm on the home front, and I have felt nothing but enthusiastic about the future and our successes and I strive to push the bar every day.
Until now I have not come to this mountain and I think that it is going to be my biggest challenge to date: Welcome the New Regional!
Most recently there has been a major rift in the tide at my supervisors’ level and they transferred my previous regional supervisor to the east coast, hired outside of the company a man with 35 years experience in the jewelry business, and made him the new regional supervisor. Needless to say the practices that my new regional demonstrates compared to my old one are dramatic and have everyone running for the hills and looking for new jobs. Demanding? Yes. Extremely high expectations? Yes. Respect and value for his new employees? No.
His reputation goes without saying that his employees are just numbers: that they are a dime a dozen and are expendable. He is overseeing every little thing that we as managers are doing, including hiring our own staff. I can understand his obsessive nature over sales and trying to make a good impression to his superiors, but he has taken almost any freedom that we have and are starting to find resentment in him because of it. Tomorrow he is flying in to oversee my hiring of a manager from another company to work for our store that I was extremely excited about until he said that I wasn’t allowed to hire him until “he met him first.” I feel like he is doing my job for me instead of letting me do the job that I was entrusted with. I also feel that he is hovering over my shoulder too much and that it is putting unnecessary pressure on me and my staff. Instead of over-boasting like every other manager is doing to catch his attention, how can I address the situation with my new boss and still make a good impression and respect his position? – AngelCakes, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Well AC, in the immortal words of The Who: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. While Roger Daltrey and gang weren’t thinking of the retail clothing business when they wrote that song, it fits the advice we have for you on how to deal with your latest issues.
Let us pause, however, to congratulate you on making the most of a bad situation. Given your quick and successful transition from frustrated newbie to seasoned leader means you are no quitter. Your most recent description of your team’s dynamics would make Patrick Lencioni proud. I wish we could take the credit for the transformation you’ve made, but the fact remains that all the advice in the world is meaningless without execution. And you clearly executed (a 25% sales increase is phenomenal in any economy). Nice job, AC!
Now, back to your current dilemma…
The ABCs of Job Satisfaction
When you write about the others who are “running for the hills” because of the new regional supervisor, we are not surprised. Beyond the obvious issue that some of these might be immature managers who simply cannot deal with change, it sounds like your new regional manager is clearly violating the ABCs of Job Satisfaction.
While on the surface most people believe that salary is the greatest indicator of job satisfaction, the truth is that Autonomy, Benefit and Challenge (the AskTheManager.com ABCs of Job Satisfaction) are greater predictors of one’s contentment with one’s employment than any other factors. Let’s discuss these in reverse order.
Without some level of challenge, any job can become boring and commonplace. As humans, we need varying degrees of intellectual and/or competitive challenges on our jobs to keep us stimulated and engaged.
The challenges created by your new boss, unfortunately, do not equate to the kind of challenging work environment that’s been known to arouse creativity and motivate individuals. In fact, by taking away your ability to make certain decisions, he has effectively removed many of the most challenging aspects of a manager’s job.
When we speak about the benefit of your job, we’re not talking about dental coverage. Instead, we are referring to your ability to understand and connect your efforts with the benefit enjoyed by your company. A sales manager, for example, can easily see the results of her efforts; although a factory worker who is tasked with attaching widget X1298TWHQ to gadget G7JJN23 cannot. The factory worker is but a cog, while the sales manager is driving noticeable value. Additionally, the sales manager enjoys a more clearly defined report card; one that displays for all to see the level of benefit enjoyed by the company because of her efforts.
Lucky for you, your new boss won’t be able to effectively remove your ability to see the benefit of what you deliver. Of course, he could make life so miserable that you become passive-aggressive and end up not wanting to drive value.
The level of autonomy granted any employee is the single greatest indicator of job satisfaction. Simply put: where a worker feels like they are the master of their own domain, that worker is less likely to be unhappy with their job. Once our work is second-guessed by our supervisors (or once we have to ask permission for everything) we are ready to jump ship. It’s amazing how quickly this can alter one’s perception of their workplace: Take away someone’s autonomy and you take away their freedom.
This is where your new boss is having the most negative impact on your job satisfaction; and the primary reason you are uneasy and your peers are exiting faster than rats departing a sinking ship. By removing your ability to make decisions he is also removing your commitment to success. Sadly, it was this commitment to success that brought you this far.
Okay, But How Do I Deal With Him?
AC, (by our interpretation of your message) you are seeking both the return of your autonomy and some level of respect from your new supervisor. Let’s deal with the latter, first.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
We’re going to assume that you and your old boss shared some healthy level of mutual respect, and that both of you were highly competent professionals (and both of you knew this fact about the other). We’re also going to assume that your old boss was generous in his/her granting of autonomy. Your old boss granted this autonomy because of your competence and his/her respect of you.
So what’s changed?
You are still highly competent; though your new boss either doesn’t know it or doesn’t care. Don’t worry – if he wants to succeed and grow with your company – he soon will. Gaining his respect, of course, will require a little more work.
First, no matter how distasteful it may be, you must respect him. You have to go out of your way to see the good in what he’s trying to accomplish and genuinely respect him. Respecting him requires that you suppress negative feelings, live (temporarily) with his micromanagement style and, in effect, kill him with kindness. Distrustful managers (it’s an understatement to say that your current supervisor is distrustful) have a difficult time respecting even those they consider competent. They will often, however, respect those who respect them.
Second, admire him without becoming a sycophant. Find a way to like the guy without kissing his ass. Distrustful managers especially have a difficult time respecting those they consider brownnosers.
In other words, treat your new boss the same as the old boss: with respect and admiration. (Even if this fails to sway the guy, you’ll find working with him will become more tolerable due to a psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance – you’ll actually be forced to like the guy by your subconscious mind.)
What if Nothing Works?
Although we seem to be batting 1.000 with our advice to you AC, we have been known to be wrong before. If showing genuine respect and admiration for this micromanager fails to make him give you some leeway and focus his overbearing style on less fortunate managers, you needn’t panic. These situations are generally very short-lived. They may seem like an eternity when you’re trapped in the middle, but rest assured that no one can successfully micromanage multiple locations over the long term.
Because the stores he supervises are scattered across a large area, he will not be able to maintain control over every aspect of every store. He will either cede control to competent, respectful leaders like you or he will implode and be driven from company by his inevitable failure.
What is Your Goal?
The bottom line for you is to ask yourself “what are my goals?” Once you understand your short- and long-term career objectives, ask yourself if you are more likely to attain these by staying and fighting through the current unpleasantness or if you will be better off somewhere else. Because your last supervisor seemed like an enlightened leader, it is likely that your company rewards that sort of behavior, and equally probable that your current supervisor will either change or wither. Of course, if you choose to stay and your last supervisor was more the exception than the rule in your company, you could be in for a very unsatisfactory time.
Either way, just being curious and seeking advice from others tells us that you’ll be an effective leader no matter where you choose to serve next.