When your boss decides to move on to a new job it can feel as if the rug's been pulled out from under you.
Assuming you've enjoyed a positive relationship, they've likely been instrumental in developing your professional skills and confidence, equipping you with invaluable lessons and insights to guide your career progression. But now someone else has taken their place.
Proving yourself to someone new can present a somewhat challenging proposition. Not only is this person foreign to you, but they are in a position of authority, a custodian of your day-to-day activities and short-term professional development. Harbouring some feelings of unease when confronted with this great unknown is only natural.
And even if you were happy to see the back of your old boss, their replacement doesn't automatically signify the dawning of a positive era. Effort on your end will be required to help enhance the chances of their arrival resulting in a positive turning point for you. Here are some key principles to keep in mind when a new boss comes to town:
Organise your thoughts
Expect the new boss to ask for your opinion on existing processes and what you think could be improved. They'll be searching for information in order to inform their future decisions and directions.
Now is the time to present (or perhaps re-present) those ideas of yours. Ensure you articulate them in a succinct and constructive manner.
Remember, the boss' head will be swimming with new information and priorities. Prioritising your messages and keeping them simple will help the boss to retain, consider, and hopefully act on your recommended changes.
Typically, the boss will also want to know how you like to work. For instance, you might be a self-sufficient operator and value your independence on tasks. Be sincere when answering this question as they will figure it out for themselves soon enough.
Further, you'll likely be asked about your career objectives, so it's important to know what you want to achieve and communicate it clearly. Your ambitions will tell the boss a lot about what motivates you, providing them with valuable insights into how they can inspire the best out of you and guide your career trajectory.
Recognise their priorities
A clear understanding of your boss' business priorities is essential in ensuring your focus is aligned with theirs. Any confusion around their expectations and objectives can lead to a host of issues for you.
This understanding is particularly important if they introduce a fresh direction or modify your tasks - you'll recognise why they've done so because of your "bigger picture" perspective.
And if you don't like their changes?
Avoid getting upset or making rash decisions about your future with the business. Change takes time to get used to, so put your best foot forward, offer some flexibility, and if after all of this you still feel as if you simply can't live with it, perhaps it's time to start looking around.
Don't rush it
You'll find trust and respect at the core of every healthy relationship. And as they say, trust is earned. Respect is no different. Neither is an entitlement.
Your actions and behaviour during the early stages of your boss' tenure will lay the foundation to the relationship. They will be relying on your support to help make their arrival a smooth transition. Ensure you're available to answer their questions and, more importantly, follow through on the commitments you make to them. By doing this you will be investing the right kind of energy into creating a promising future together.
And avoid making snap judgments. They'll still be facing the same challenges any new recruit does: working within a new culture, establishing relationships, making a good first impression and living up to performance expectations are chief among these.
So save drawing conclusions until they've had time to find their feet and momentum.
View it as an opportunity
While it can be an unsettling time, remember that the new person coming in will bring with them a host of new and potentially valuable skills and experiences that you can tap into.
Alex Malley is the chief executive of CPA Australia.