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4 Questions to Ask Your New Boss

By Maurie Backman - Oct 8, 2017 at 2:02PM

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New boss in town? Here's how to start your relationship off on the right foot.

No matter how long you've been on the job, adapting to a new boss can be a learning process for everyone involved. Here are a few questions to ask early on that might help things run smoothly.

1. What's your preferred method of communication?

Some managers swear by email and use it as their primary means of communication. Others prefer face-to-face interaction, or phone conversations when a live meeting isn't possible. No matter your boss's preference, it's a good idea to nail it down early on in your relationship. That way, you won't get offended when your boss rejects your meeting request and asks to discuss your inquiry by email instead, or panic every time you're called into the boss's office to hash things out.

Two people shaking hands


2. What expectations do you have of me?

Perhaps you've developed a clear understanding of what your role entails, along with a solid process for being productive. But if your boss comes in with different expectations, it's important to understand what those are from the get-go. Otherwise, you might spend your days doing what you think is most essential to your role, only to find out that your boss is waiting for you to switch gears.

You might also aim to set clear expectations with regard to the number of hours you work each week and your schedule itself. Maybe your old boss had no problem with you leaving early to pick up your child from day care, or compressing your workweek during the summer to allow for long weekends away. But if your new boss has a different idea of when you should be in the office, you'll need to get on the same page.

3. What are your goals for the team?

Crucial as it is to establish individual expectations, it's also essential that you find out what your boss envisions as the bigger picture for your team. Will your new manager look to expand your collective responsibilities and grow the team? Or is the goal to improve on existing processes? Knowing what might be in store can help you avoid unwanted surprises.

4. How can I make your job easier?

There's perhaps no more endearing a question for a manager to hear than "How can I make your job easier?" So when you sit down to meet your new boss, ask that question like you really mean it. This sends the message that you're a true team player, and that you value your boss's time.

Along these lines, you might give your boss a rundown of your skill set and knowledge so that he or she knows how to best utilize you. For example, if your boss is working on getting up to speed on marketing data, and you're a spreadsheet wizard, you might offer to consolidate certain information so that it's easier to process. Or, you might volunteer to give your boss a rundown of the key challenges your team is facing with regard to certain projects. Remember, just as it might take you some time to get used to a new boss, your manager will need time to adjust as well. Doing what it takes to make that adjustment easier will earn you some major brownie points and set the stage for a solid relationship.

While it's natural to worry when a new boss takes over, try to see it as an opportunity to grow your career, build your skills, and learn from someone who brings a unique outlook to the table. With any luck, you'll come to appreciate your new manager and be thankful that he or she came on board.

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