In my last blog post I shared the first step of dealing with the disappointment of starting a new position full of enthusiasm only to find as the weeks have gone on that the boss you were so excited to work for has turned out to offer less promise than you’d hoped.

This step was to face up and recognize that your boss is human too.

In this post…we’ll look at Step 2- Discuss Mutual Expectations with the New Boss

More often than not, I find that the challenges that surface in early weeks of a boss-direct report relationship arise because expectations have not been aligned.

This doesn’t necessarily mean there is a MIS-alignment…but simply that the alignment conversations haven’t taken place. There are too many assumptions being made.

Conversations about expectations need to focus on the WHAT and the HOW.

A) First the “what”…

If your boss isn’t sending you warm and fuzzy vibes…perhaps it’s because you’ve launched in by focusing on the wrong priorities. Your job description is not necessarily the right place to start. Be sure to have a conversation that identifies the most important initiatives over the next few weeks to demonstrate that you are ramping-up in a productive and appropriate manner. In other words…what does your boss REALLY want you to do in your first few weeks?

Here’s a client scenario. After three short weeks on the job, Jill was getting the sense that her boss was somehow let-down by Jill’s contribution. When she got the nerve up to check-in with him, she learned that the subject her boss most wished she would address was a long-standing organizational issue that was well within the scope of Jill’s role at her previous organization. Resolving this issue didn’t involve a learning curve for her at all. This expertise was, in fact, one of the key reasons Jill had been hired…despite the job description focusing on areas that were outside of Jill’s comfort zone. Jill had mistakenly understood that the “right thing” to do was to show commitment right off the bat to learning about all of the areas that were new to her. This misunderstanding could have easily derailed the relationship and Jill’s perceived performance in her role.

Now, how about YOU’re “what”? Based on the discussions through the recruitment process, what had you expected to be able to focus on in the initial few weeks of joining the organization? How are these expectations being met? I’ve witnessed new Onboarding coaching clients who are stewing over the disappointment of not being able to sink their teeth into the assignments that they’d been promised. It’s my belief that sitting on this disappointment is a sure start down the road of disengagement. Better to have a conversation about what’s different from what was expected. Then, in a non-blaming way, work to clarify how and when you may be able to experience the initiatives you thought you would be part of your mandate.

B) Now let’s look at the “how”…

Even clients who are perfectly aligned with their bosses on the “what” expectations for their first 90 days, often have missteps on the “how”. Mutual expectations around communication style, mode of communication and frequency are all too often left to chance. It’s only when things go horribly wrong that the discussions take place and by then it’s often too late.

In my self-coaching workbook, “Wow Them In Your New Job!”, I include an exercise that encourages new hires to set time aside with the new boss to talk about:
• Whether they prefer email, phone or face-to-face
• Frequency of updates preferred
• Turnaround times expected
• Nature of feedback preferred, etc.

Remember that this is a conversation about “mutual expectations”…it’s a chance to express your needs as well…it’s not just about pleasing the boss. Optimal communication meets the needs of both parties.

Having these “what” and “how” conversations to clarify expectations as early in the game as possible can go a long way to rectifying an uncomfortable relationship with a new boss. I’ve witnessed many boss-direct report relationships turning around profoundly with even one open and direct conversation about expectations.

So, if you are disappointed with how things are going with your new boss… what do you have to lose? Arrange for an “expectations” conversation as soon as possible.

My next blog post will address Step 3. After attempting steps 1 & 2, it’s time to decide if the gap is workable—or not.