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How to Onboard Your New Boss

4 minute read

With turnover still high across most countries and layoffs on the rise, many of us may face a new boss. We’re familiar with being a new employee: receiving an onboarding schedule for meet and greets, being shown the ropes by a co-worker, and asking an unending array of questions, even if they seem like dumb questions.

But what happens when we are assigned a new manager? In these times of business uncertainty, it’s not uncommon for leaders to be let go and teams combined, or new bosses being assigned without the group having much forewarning. This can cause angst for the existing team: what does the new boss value? What is she trying to achieve? Will our priorities change? And what about the key projects I’ve been working on?

This uncertainty is natural, and it’s the uncertainty that causes our worry. However, you can stem your own uncertainty by taking charge of the situation while your new boss settles in.



Take the initiative. While nearly all new bosses will introduce themselves and provide a brief overview of expectations, they may not initially internalise who does what on their team. Re-introduce yourself and your team to your new leader and describe how your work fits into the larger organisation’s purpose and outcomes. Create a “leave behind”, a narrative or graphic of key team priorities and team members for the boss’ reference later when they have a breather.



Being a new boss can be lonely. While you are trying to get to know them, they are trying to get to know their new boss. Particularly, if they’ve been moved into the team from another area, there is a lot to learn, and expectations are high. Lunch together offers a different setting to have conversation, and especially following COVID, nothing is more connecting than face-to-face time together. An extended period with your boss, as a lunch offers, allows the conversation to move beyond what you’re working on and make more personal connections. Do you both root for the same sports team, enjoy similar activities or have commonalities in your background?



While it’s important to share with your boss what you and your team do, it’s just as important to share who you are. Team builder Liane Davey, a recent guest on The WSJ’s podcast “As We Work,” highlighted a new leader onboarding checklist she created that encourages new managers to understand their direct reports at a different level. You can take the initiative and explore these same “relationship deepening” questions if your new manager hasn’t done so. What accomplishment are you most proud of and how did you accomplish it? What’s your best time thinking during the day? How do we know when you’re stuck? How do you want me to keep you informed on significant initiatives?



Check in with your new boss from time to time. Invite them to coffee. Ask how it’s going. Point out resources they may not yet have uncovered. Connect them via IM to see if they need anything. Be available but not annoying. Yes, you are busy and you don’t want to get overwhelmed with work, but enabling your new boss’ success will enable your own success in the long term.



You are important to the success of your boss’ team. If your boss hasn’t scheduled regular 1:1s, take the initiative to schedule them yourself. Start with 30 minutes every other week and then adjust them over time. Come prepared to remind your boss what you’re working on, but also successes you’ve had recently and what you’ve learned.

Being assigned a new boss can be stressful. Understanding how they work and what they value takes time. The relationship, however, can be jump-started if you take the initiative to get to know your boss and what matters to them, rather than waiting to discover these on their own.


About the author

Janet Polach

As a retired Marine officer, Janet knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a great leader. She holds a Ph.D. in leadership development and has assisted hundreds of leaders across the globe, including major brands and government agencies, find their leadership voice in a noisy world. Her no-nonsense but lighthearted approach creates transformational results for even the most struggling leaders. She would be delighted to connect with you for a FREE 90-minute coaching conversation to uncover a key issue that is holding you back and create a plan to move your forward. Janet can be reached at,

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