Saturday, 25 July 2009

The new boss…

A few weeks ago my department had a major shock and it still pretty much dominates our mind and our discussions. We knew that some organisational reviews took place and that the logical consequence would be that our department was likely to be restructured.

What we didn’t consider was how quickly these things can move and how much they can actually affect you. Well, we were surprised. One day we knew what we were supposed to do and what our boss expected. The next day we were told that our boss had not been successful when reapplying for his job, was on garden leave and someone we vaguely knew from a different part of the business was now our new boss.

You can imagine that this was rather a shock especially as we rated our old manager very highly. Within a week every rule we had been working to had been changed. And again. And again. The new boss didn’t really know our area of business. He was too busy to spend time with the top management to sit down with us and find out who we are and what we do. And this lack of communication automatically led to confusion, fear and frustration. Very quickly we didn’t know anymore what we were responsible for and what was expected from us. With rules and guidelines changing on a daily basis any work we did yesterday was ready for the bin tomorrow. And rumours that ‘we are the next’ to get restructured became ripe.

Initially the department was split between those thinking that ‘keeping our head down and just accepting that things are going to be a bit crazy for a while’ and those thinking that ‘we should show the new boss that we resent our old boss losing his job and don’t rate him coming in knowing nothing and telling us what to do’.

We also differed on the discussion if we should offer the new boss help and try to set our own ground rules, or if we should just wait what he’s going to do and if he asks for help.

I personally don’t think that blaming the new boss for what happened will do anyone any good. It will make it more difficult for him to identify what’s really going on, what the issues are and how he can improve the departments’ performance and our professional life. At the same time it can result in serious issues for the ‘rebels’ – your attitude won’t scare the new boss away (and even if, he’d be replaced with someone else you don’t know) and once he’s settled and reviews his department, he is unlikely to reward you for your negativity and unsupportive approach. I know that some people do this out of loyalty to their old boss, but I think, it’s false loyalty – it won’t help the old boss and will harm you. Accepting that things changed, doesn’t mean you are disloyal to the old boss, just that you accept reality and make the best out of it.

Keeping your head down and pretending the negativity and fear surrounding you is normal, isn’t much better though. It makes your life a misery and you don’t know how long it will take until normality returns.

The best approach is to come to terms with the changes as quickly as possible. Then stop mourning the old boss, approach the new boss and talk to him. With that I don’t mean sucking up to him, but try to get to know him. Make him understand that you are not the enemy (and neither is he) but that you want to work with him for the greater good of the department and company and try to establish your own ground rules. Maybe you can turn the new situation to your best?

Things have started to settle down a bit now. After some short-lived rebellions we have come to terms with the fact that the old boss is gone, the new is here to stay, that life will change irrevocably and all we can do is get on with it, give him a chance and understand that it is not his fault that he was chosen above someone else.

Here are some interesting links I found about the topic:

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