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Co-worker is now my (horrible) new boss

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “My previous manager was very supportive and a truly incredible leader. When she was promoted to a higher position, one of my co-workers replaced her. In the past, this person hardly ever spoke to me. Now she is taking the term “boss” to a whole new scary level. After asking each of us what we liked and disliked, she has taken away most of the “likes”.  She is changing everything, including our flexible schedules and ability to work from home. She acts like a dictator and is always looking over our shoulders. With the people she knows well, she is very helpful, but the rest of us have just been tossed aside.  Although her favorites like her, everyone else has really low morale. When I met with her recently about a project, she loudly told me to stop asking so many questions and accept that we are under new leadership. This was the most unprofessional meeting I have ever had. I have considered making a formal complaint to human resources. Leaving seems to be the only other choice.  What should I do?”  —Miserable

Answer: You’ve been hit with a double whammy. First, you lost a manager who suited you perfectly, then you had to face the difficult peer-to-boss transition. Even under ideal circumstances, that would be a tough combination.

If you can trust your HR manager, a confidential conversation might help. Ranting and raving will only make you seem like part of the problem, so forget about the formal complaint and present your concerns with a helpful attitude. 

Calmly explain that you are worried about morale and feel your new manager could use some coaching.  Offer examples of the business problems created by her leadership style. Suggest that the HR manager talk with some other employees. Then wait and see what happens. 

Although management is not likely to reverse this recent promotional decision, they may take steps to address the issues.  If the situation fails to improve, you can start the search for a better boss.  

For suggestions on adjusting to a new manager, see Strategies for Surviving a New Boss.

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