Everybody deals with it at some time in their career. Your boss gets canned and a new guy – or gal – has been hired to replace him. Rumors abound as everyone wants to get an idea of the new management’s style, approach, and most importantly, his agenda. They fired the old guy for a reason. What will the new guy do to “improve” matters?
Will he clean house and bring in his own lieutenants? Who will I report to? How will the changes affect me? Will we still have yoga on Tuesdays?
Under New Management
When a company decides to make a new management change, they are usually trying to change more than the person who sits in the big office. Whether it’s the leader of the entire company or the head of a division like IT or marketing, there are changes they would like to see.
The response from the team throughout the hierarchy is usually mixed. Some people are stunned and saddened to see their leader removed. Others are glad to see that jerk walk. Still others could care less, other than to worry how their job may be affected.
The new management usually wants to put their own brand on their newly acquired team. They implement new policies and procedures. Perhaps they bring in some consultants that they’ve dealt with before. Before long, they hire a couple of new direct reports that worked for them in years past.
As much as we all know that change can be good, we always prefer that it happens to someone else. Too often we associate change with disruption rather than improvement. And that causes us to be resistant to change. Most of us go through some level of the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But not everyone gets to the fifth stage.
When it comes down to it, there are really three responses to dealing with the new regime.
Escape from it
Many people don’t get past the denial and anger. Now that their beloved leader is gone, there isn’t much for them to stay for. Even if they weren’t all that aligned with the previous management, it was the devil they knew.
Some see the writing on the wall early and others, in an ironic move, decide to find new employment to deal with their resistance to change. Most managers expect to see some fall-out. They only hope that the right people leave. Some identify their brightest stars and meet with them to let them know they want them to stay.
One of the positive aspects of leaving your company at this time is that it provides a logical explanation for the interview process. You can explain to your prospective employer that they had gone in another direction which wasn’t in sync with your career goals.
The downsides include the prospective employer fearing that you’ll bolt at the sign of any change. You also could miss out on some big opportunities with the company you leave. Perhaps you were one of the key people in their new plans. The grapevine rarely focuses on opportunities. It’s too busy processing bad news.
If you can get past the denial and anger, you may begin to touch on the bargaining stage. You vow to stick around and see if you can continue to fit into the new regime. But you’re not willing to commit to all of the changes they want to implement.
That new consulting firm he brought in? They don’t know anything about our business. Those new employees that followed him from previous lives? They’re just not a good fit. I’ve been here a lot longer than any of them and I can outlast them.
The new manager and his new employees and his consulting firm can keep trying to implement their changes. I’ll pretend to comply. I’ll go through the motions and even adapt some of the changes to give the impression of compliance.
But it’s really a bunch of BS. I liked our old way of doing things and I’m going to stick with them. I can outlast these people and in a year, they’ll be gone. Then we can get back to doing things the right way.
There are very few upsides to this approach. If your organization has a history of changing management every year or two and nothing ever happens as a result, this may be just another episode in a long string of on-again-off-again changes.
But even if your company regularly practices this form of corporate ADD, there is the outside chance that the current one will stick and you will be weeded out for not being on-board.
There are rarely benefits to resistance of new management.
If you manage to get through the bargaining, you may face some depression that the old way is a thing of the past. Everyone who gets to the acceptance stage has varying paths to their destination.
But at some point, people either have consumed the Kool-Aid and are on board, or they realize that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Regardless of the reason, there is usually a group of people that accept and even embrace the change. Some become evangelists, others simply follow the norm.
The advantage to this is, should the new changes take hold, those people are considered loyal employees and, assuming a decent level of competence, the faithful employees will thrive.
The downside of acceptance occurs when the new management team doesn’t last. Perhaps they pissed off the wrong executive or a client. They’re unceremoniously booted and their followers are guilty by association. This usually only happens in rare circumstances. An executive who hires a new manager will give the new person plenty of time to succeed to avoid the appearance of making a bad decision.
The Only Constant is Change
Anyone who has been working in the business world for any significant period of time will attest to the fact that change happens. Small changes occur on a daily basis, large changes less often. But when they do take place, they can disrupt you day, your week or even your career.
Only the employee can decide if the changes are right for her. They can be a boon to your career or the beginning of the end for you at that company.
Whatever the change, resistance is rarely the best approach. If the employee decides that she isn’t a fit for whatever changes that are proposed, it’s best to exit gracefully than to be dragged out kicking and screaming.
If you decide to give the changes a chance, and determine that you’re a believer, don’t just dip your toe in the water. Learn the new processes and embrace them. Recruit non- believers to your side and help make the changes a success.
When a leader takes charge of a new team, one of the first questions they want answered is to determine who is with them and who is against them. If people disagree and choose to leave, they wish them well and are usually glad they didn’t stick around to throw sand in the gears of progress. For those that stay, they need to know who is on their side.
It’s best not to keep them guessing.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.