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Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk
Good news: The startup I’ve been working at for a couple of years got acquired! Bad news: I’m not getting on with our new department head. (She was brought in from the company that acquired us.) It’s been a couple of months now. Time to dust off my resume?
The saying goes that people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss. Half of all employees surveyed by Gallup have left a job at some point in their career to escape a manager. And despite $15.5 BILLION spent each year on leadership and managerial development, toxic managers remain an American staple.
But, just because your situation isn’t unique doesn’t make it easier. You have two choices. You can learn to cope with this new leader, or you can job hunt. And without knowing the details, I’ll advise you to do both.
First, take some time to try to understand the new department head. Treat this like a science experiment where you don’t have an emotional stake (because oh boy, do you – everything’s on the line, this is your livelihood!).
- Consider their situation because this acquisition may be really hard on them too – could they adjust, given time?
- What motivates them? If they rule by threats, they may just be using an old managerial playbook. Knowing that they don’t actually care that you arrived at 9:05, but care what THEIR boss thinks of you walking in at 9:05 could help you to find a balance.
- If they’re micromanaging, learning what their triggers are and getting ahead of them can earn rapid trust. If they hear, “Of course! I already completed the report and updated it in Dropbox,” enough times, they’ll ask if something is done rather than bark at you to finish it.
- Use couple’s counseling methods – ask “did you mean X?” and “I heard you say Y, is that accurate?” and affirm their responses. You’re in a partnership whether you like it or not, and by treating it as such, you can demonstrate how YOU wish to be communicated with.
In short, you can adapt. You can “manage up,” no matter how awful the department head. And even if you’re intent on quitting, study the “manage up” method – it will help you now AND in the future.
Second, it’s time to brush off the ol’ resume. Worst case scenario, you adapt to a crappy boss, best case scenario you move on to another opportunity.
You probably already know, but the WCA Mentor program offers great resume help and mentor insights. Take advantage of every part of the program that you can. Update your resume and make sure your LinkedIn is current as well (and yo, you can actually secretly job hunt on LinkedIn so everyone but your boss/coworkers can see you’re on the market)!
You should check out the job market at least once per year anyhow, just to make sure that you’re in the right place and/or earning the appropriate salary and benefits. Employment is not a marriage – it’s not cheating to keep your eyes open for better options. Even CEOs are typically open to better opportunities.
Line up your next role before leaving, be prepared to give proper notice, never badmouth the department head or the company, and put yourself out there. Start going to networking events and job fairs, even if you’re passively looking for a job.
Your mental health is important. So managing up AND job hunting can keep you moving in a positive direction rather than stagnating in a negative environment. Who knows? Maybe your new department head will settle the hell down and stop being abrasive (or whatever they’re doing), or maybe you’ll stumble into an amazing opportunity elsewhere as a result – thanks, s****y boss! 😀
I suspect better communication may help you both. Ask to meet. Set a goal for the conversation, have questions ready, and be kind. Put the focus on her — what are her goals for the department, how can you be of help, where does she see room for growth in her vision? Remember, she’s new, under pressure, and may not even realize how displeased you are, so extend yourself. Have suggestions ready should she ask for input. If you like what you hear, give her time, cultivate trust. If not, dust away.
Acquisitions are tough! Melding corporate cultures, turning over the management fruit basket, and continuing to knock items off your to-do list – it’s a lot to juggle. And having a boss (grand boss?) who doesn’t appreciate your contributions is untenable. I say, dust off the resume and put it in your back pocket for now. Give your current situation another month or two, while beginning to open your eyes to what else is out there. Meanwhile, consider actions you can take to improve the outlook where you are. Could you have a heart-to-heart with the new department head? Is there a side-step move you can take to get out from under this person? Life’s too short to struggle in a no-win management structure.
I think the phrase “not getting on with” can mean a lot of things. So, knowing what little I know, here goes…If I were in your shoes, I’d spend some time reflecting / journaling on what the specific issues are and why they bother me so much. I’m a believer that sometimes (but not always) having a friendly but real conversation with the person (say, over coffee or lunch) can help clear the air. You may share what some of your thoughts are on how you could get a long better or get the support you need to do your job. Usually…. When you get to know someone, it’s easier to understand their motives, style, behaviors, etc. However, certain personalities don’t want to hear it! So there’s that.
I think you’d also gain value by going to Byron Katie’s website and downloading her free worksheet. Her patented system called The Work is a fascinating way to map out what the problems are, how you feel about them and whether they are, in fact, “true.” Often we realize that some of the problem is how we are viewing / framing our relationship with someone or reacting to their behaviors.
Now, if it’s really bad (abusive, unpleasant, demoralizing) and you just can’t see staying (perhaps its a really awful experience to go to work each day) then, by all means, dust off and spruce up that resume. Something better is surely out there. And be sure to ask yourself “What does a great job and a great environment and team feel like?” So you don’t get yourself into another similar jam.
Also consider this wonderful, short podcast if there is the possibility she is working with a narcissist (they are everywhere!).
It’s always a good idea to have your resume up-to-date, polished and ready to send out to the next prospective employer, regardless of whether you get along your boss. Everyone should have Plan B.
You don’t have to like your boss, but if you believe your boss isn’t going to help you grow in your job, might try to sabotage your career or doesn’t value or appreciate the work you do, by all means, start looking around.
If, on the other hand, you love the job and don’t want to leave, figure out a way to work with your boss and get what you need to succeed. Having an honest discussion with your boss about what he/she sees as your strengths, weaknesses and future with the company is a good way to get clarity about how to proceed.
Mary Ann Roser