The workplace is a lot like football. I say that not because its true, but because its a handy way to justify the hours I spend watching football. Also, it allows me to write off nachos as a business expense.
But this week, the football-workplace simile is spot on. The day after the National Football Leagues regular season ended, seven head coaches were fired. So players on seven teams will be adjusting to new leaders, a situation that has become common in the nonfootball working world.
The recession has led to routine leadership shake-ups, and the odds of having the same boss or supervisor for a number of years have dropped precipitously.
When the Chicago Bears fired head coach Lovie Smith, several players spoke out. Devin Hester, a wide receiver and special teams ace, even threatened to retire rather than play for another coach.
But those of us who arent paid millions of dollars for literally tackling the competition dont have the luxury of quitting when a new boss comes along, much less voicing disapproval. So how do we adapt?
George Bradt, co-author of The New Leaders 100-Day Action Plan and manager of PrimeGenesis, which helps new executives achieve results faster with less chance of failure, says the first step is to keep your attitude in check. Unless you absolutely despise your boss, the odds are youre going to fear a new one we fear change, and the gut reaction to new management is, Oh no, what awful things will they do to us?
Its a major change, and each employee needs to hit a reset button, Bradt says. If you think of changes in the workplace, some are major and some are minor, some are temporary and some are enduring. A new boss is a major change. Everything is new. Everything you did last season, last year, during the last planning session is useless.
Debra Benton, an executive coach and author of The Virtual Executive, says workers often feel smug when a new boss starts, acting as though new managers need to prove themselves. Thats a bad stance.
Remember, youre in as much of a risky position as a new boss is, she says. A new boss coming in wants to make changes, and changes can often mean getting rid of people. If you dont show energy, a driven attitude and discipline, you might be the first to go, even if youre very, very good.
As with most office relationships, the wisest among us will do some reconnaissance on the new boss: the basic who, what, when, where, how and why about the person leading you.
You dont get it just from observation; you have to pursue it, Benton says. Ask questions. What drove you to this company? What about the company attracted you? These are reasonable questions to get you started, but at the same time you should volunteer your who, what, when, why and how. Dont hope or expect or wait for them to ask you these good questions. They have five or 50 of you that they have to learn, so you help them learn about you.
And that does not make you a suck-up it means you are communicating in an honest, human manner.
Theres nothing wrong with trying to get to know a new person in the office, whether its someone above you, below you or on your same level. You dont have to walk up to a new boss and start singing his or her praises. Just act as you would around anyone youre trying to get to know.
Rex Huppke, workplace advice columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RexWorksHere