Here’s a note from a reader with a career question:
I just learned that I’ll be getting a new boss at the end of the month – someone from outside the company who doesn’t know me. This is a good thing, because, frankly, I’ve made some bad choices in my current job and I think my professional credibility has taken a hit. I’ve made some enemies . . .my once solid work relationships have suffered. How can I start off on the right foot with my new boss?
There are times in our career when we screw up. If we’re lucky, we’re working for a leader who believes in redemption. But sometimes, a string of bad choices morphs into a bad reputation, if left untended too long. Your instincts are right to want to make reparations and to set a positive tone with a new leader. This is your chance to write a new chapter in your career narrative.
I suggest a two-pronged approach: first, get to work on relationship repair with your colleagues (the aforementioned “enemies”), then get ready to have a difficult (but vital) convo with your new leader.
3 Ways to Repair Your Professional Relationship with Colleagues
- Meet privately with individuals who you believe will be receptive to an apology. Say, “I screwed up. What can I do to make things better?” Talking one-on-one about your mistake shows you’re serious about making amends. By being open and asking for their thoughts, you’re showing that you respect their feelings and really want to fix things.
- Start every day with this promise to yourself: “I will make choices that keep me in integrity and build positive business relationships.” Making a daily commitment to doing the right thing keeps you on track. It’s not just about avoiding future mess-ups; it’s about creating a workplace vibe where people can trust you and enjoy working with you.
- Pay attention to how people are responding to you after you’ve made the apologies – are those who were previously “cool” to you now “thawing”? Be sure to express your gratitude for giving you a second chance. Keep an eye on how folks are reacting to your efforts. If you notice things getting better, let them know you appreciate it. Expressing thanks shows you’re serious about changing and thankful they’re willing to move past the bumps in the road.
What to Say to a New Boss if You’ve Screwed Up in the Past
In tandem, you can do some things to get ready for your new boss’ arrival – see my Huff Post article on New Boss? Six Steps to Starting Off Right.
When you meet with the new boss, lay it all out. Here are three ideas for how to tee up the information.
- Be upfront. Let them know you are working to improve some challenges you have been experiencing. No need to go into great detail (someone else probably already has!); just acknowledge that there have been shortcomings and you are committed to working through them.
- Highlight the good stuff: When you meet the new boss, share the positive changes you’ve made. Talk about any cool courses or skills you’ve picked up to tackle those challenges. It’s not just an apology – show them you’re on a journey of getting even better.
- Ask for a bit of wisdom: Don’t be shy to ask your new boss for some advice on how to interact with the team. Let them know you’re open to learning and growth. It’s not just about fixing past hiccups; it’s about creating a relationship that shows you’re open to their insights.
A few final thoughts – forgiveness can be very difficult for people. Don’t expect everyone to sing your praises right away. It may take awhile to redeem yourself, depending on the severity of the “choices” you have made along the way. With luck, your new boss will see your sincere efforts to improve and will give you the chance to do so.