M: Kian works for an electronics manufacturing firm for about two years now. His boss was recently replaced. And it is clear that his new boss doesn’t like him. Reason? The new boss seems to spot mistakes more than the things that worked well. Kian asks how to manage this environment? Well, just keep on keeping on. Do your work well and hopefully this will change your new boss’ attitude toward you.
DJ: It’s understandable for Kian to have a feeling in the pit of his stomach that he and his boss just don’t click. I suggest that he take a moment to assess what’s happening, identify the cause and then decide on the actions to take to make things better. If he thinks it’s about trust, rehabilitating that will require deliberate steps. Clarifying expectations is a good first step.
From my experience, this is where the disconnect usually is. Thus, on their next performance discussion, I suggest that he initiate the conversation so he and his boss are calibrated moving forward. Now, if his boss highlights a legitimate gap, it works also if he’s quick to acknowledge it and volunteers a couple of actions to bridge it. It’s tempting to rush from zero to hero but regular check-ins, at least monthly, will do.
M: It is challenging to be in a work environment with changing dynamics brought about by new leadership, new management or new working styles. The key is to first observe and not immediately react. There are always some adjustments to be made.
DJ: It’s possible that the issue isn’t competence but connection. I’ve been in this situation before, when the boss thinks you’re a threat rather than an ally. There are possible signs to spot this. One is eye contact. Another is whether the boss seems to avoid interaction with you. Like if you happen to be in the same area — the coffee machine, for example — and then he or she quickly walks away instead of interacting with you. But before making a conclusion, you can also check if the boss behaves in the same manner with others, too. A disconnect becomes obvious if their pop culture examples or metaphors don’t resonate, or if attempts at humor fall flat. Possible remedies? I am not an advocate of “I like your hair today” type of conversations just to get the attention. Rather, pay attention to where the boss’ attention or energy is. Is it sports? Family? Current events? Create opportunities to tap into that excitement. What type of work-related conversations is he often engaged in? Is it finance? Supply chain? Operations? Learn these areas. They will come in handy when you both share the same elevator ride. If they’re in the office and the meeting is in a conference room, Kian can also consider observing subtle messages like sitting beside each other instead of across each other.
M: Having something new in our organization, especially a boss, always brings some disruption. There is going to be comparison, resistance and hopefully in time, acceptance. All things are passing and patient endurance can attain all things.
DJ: It’s also good if Kian will broaden his focus. Hopefully he is investing too in his relationships with his colleagues. If they share a positive and supportive work relationship, it’s likely to rub off on his boss. I also suggest for him to invest in his own resilience with chances to relax and connect with friends outside of work. Feeling under-appreciated can take a toll. It helps to make time with those who value him. Research shows that one’s relationship with his or her boss is one of the most important factors in every employee’s experience of work. In the end, he ultimately has the power and the choice to change how he looks at his situation... or change his situation altogether.