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New boss a game changer

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 7:34 p.m.

Just when you think you've figured out how to stay in the boss's good graces and do the work that gets you ahead, the whole thing gets thrown out the window: You're getting a new boss.

A new boss changes things.

The project you worked on so hard last year? The new boss doesn't know about it and doesn't really care to know. The times you stayed late and came in early? Again, the new boss doesn't know and doesn't care.

Does that mean everything you've worked for has been for nothing? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, your hard work will pay off because it's given you important experience or helped improve your skills. But because the new boss wasn't around to witness it or benefit from it, you probably won't gain any points with a new manager.

George Bradt, an expert in helping executives learn the ropes at a new company, says that whether you get a new boss or your boss gets a new boss, it's a “major change with an enduring impact,” and you've got to “hit the reset button.”

“A new boss doesn't care what you did before,” he says. “What is valuable is the relationships and the skills you have to contribute going forward.”

Does that mean you hit the new boss with a litany of your accomplishments the minute she crosses the threshold of her new office?

“That's not the way you want to do it. When given the chance, you want to talk about what you've learned in the last year,” Bradt says. “That's a way to make what you've done still seem valuable to her.”

While you may have mixed emotions, it's important not to express any regrets, anger or skepticism, he says.

“You really need to treat the new boss decently,” he says. “Your job is to make this person feel welcomed, valued and valuable.”

So how do you get off on the right foot and start to rebuild your reputation?

Bradt, author of such books as, “The New Leader's 100-day Action Plan,” suggests some ways to transition to a new boss:

• Determine her work style.

Does she favor phone calls over email or texts?

Does she want you to check in with her once a week or once a month? What decisions need her input?

These are all key questions to ask a new boss, then follow that format even if your old boss did just the opposite.

• Learn how to disagree.

Does the boss want you to offer your feedback in private? Is it OK in front of trusted team members?

“Ask the boss what she wants. But don't believe her,” Bradt says. “Most people overestimate their appetite for disagreement. It's best to watch what happens to others who disagree with her and follow what seems to work best.”

• Become a stalker.

Don't go through her trash, but use whatever resources you can to check her out without crossing a line.

Google her, look her up on LinkedIn, check out industry publications that mention her.

“Just remember that you don't want to stray into personal or unrelated territory,” he says.

“Everything really comes back to attitude,” Bradt says. “If you don't want to help a new leader do well, then you won't do well. And you're going to fail before she does.”

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy ... and How to Avoid Them.”

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