Your leader has moved on and now you have a new one.
You’ve heard a lot about him. You’re not sure that you are going to like working with him or that you will be able to trust him. Perhaps this person is someone that you don’t respect, or perhaps you don’t understand or agree with his approach or what he stands for.
This can make you feel stuck, dissatisfied, distrustful, and skeptical. All the things you could once count on are now up in the air. What will happen to you and the team is uncertain.
So what do you do?
You might decide to take a wait and see approach. Give the new leader a chance, see how things develop and then make a determination about what to do next.
You might decide to hope for the best, but expect the worst. Hope is not a good business strategy, however, it is a state of mind that can help us get through trying times. This type of approach tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as the mind will focus on the expectation and not the hope.
You might decide to rebel. You don’t like what is happening and you are going to let everybody know. You will tell others negative things about the new leader – hey, they don’t necessarily need to be true.
You start looking for a new job, perhaps in a new company or country, thinking life’s too short to work for someone you don’t respect.
If you decide to accept the new reality, although it may be a less-than-favorable situation, here are some ways to make the best of it:
Give the new leader the benefit of the doubt. The leader was chosen for a reason. You may not know what the reason is. Let him get settled in the new role, set direction and create opportunities. If you can suspend your judgement for a period of time, you might see positive things that you didn’t see previously. Alternatively, your assumptions will be reinforced.
Focus on the leader’s good qualities – While you may not click with someone right away, that doesn’t mean that others feel the same way. In fact, someone that you dislike may be someone else’s favourite person! Instead of focusing on the negative, think about how this person may benefit the team or organization. If the overall benefit is significant, this may just be enough to move past your own trepidation.
Find commonalities – The leader’s approach, views, and agenda may be significantly different than yours. However, do you both want to do what’s best for the company? Use that to find other areas where you agree, and help the leader achieve change in those areas.
Hold your leader accountable – Oftentimes you will feel uncomfortable with a leader who is not transparent, and you feel is not accountable for his actions or decisions. Accountability is a two-way street – if you are required to be accountable, then you must also hold your leader accountable. If you are having trouble with accountability, you might request that your leader make a formal commitment to accountability practices. For example, schedule a weekly check-in to ensure that you are both on the same page.
Keep a record of interactions – This sounds more ominous that it is… Sometimes a leader that you are unhappy with will not be able to connect the dots on his negative actions. Keeping a record of your interactions can help support your position in times of conflict, and may help to provide your leader some perspective on his thought processes and actions.
Assess how others interact and adjust – What do others do? Look to how your peers interact with this leader and try to replicate this behaviour. It may be that you and your leader have different methods of communication. Mirroring the actions of others to have more a more effective dialogue may help to break down some of the barriers, so that a better relationship can be created. Conversely, others may feel the same way that you do. This may signify the need to have a team meeting addressing what all parties can do to make things more comfortable.
Reflect – Perhaps, the problem is you, not the leader. Try to isolate what it is that bothers you about your leader. If you can’t isolate something specific, or manage to pinpoint something that, in the grand scheme of things, is trivial, it may be time to reflect on your own behaviour. Give thought to how your personal assumptions, biases, and expectations may be coloring the situation. Think of behaviors that you may exhibit that can be alienating and adopt others that won’t have that effect.
Accept that you won’t like everyone and that everyone won’t like you – This is a reality. No matter where you go or what you do, there will be at least one person that you won’t be particularly fond of. Instead of letting your dislike get the better of you, or letting someone else’s dislike of you make you feel uncomfortable, stand above it. Be civil and don’t dismiss others. While first judgements are often the ones that persevere, they aren’t always correct. Be patient with the situation, take a neutral stance and see what unfolds.
Consider your options – If you have done everything you can, and you are still unhappy in your role because of this negative leadership dynamic, don’t be afraid to make tough decisions. It may be time to look for a new role, if that is open to you.
The important lesson here is that, while you can’t control others you CAN control yourself. You may not be the problem in the relationship with your leader, but you can take it upon yourself to make necessary adjustments that can better the situation for both of you.
For more information about how to make the best of a bad situation, take a look at these articles:
Distrust can go both ways. Maybe you are a leader that feels you are not trusted. Check out this Inc. article to find out some ways you can adjust your behaviour to create a more cohesive team unity.
What techniques have you employed to work under a leader that may not be your favourite?