We all know it, when you work in a large organisation, there is a high chance you will face a lot of office politics. Big egos and a lot of red tape.

You have to be careful what you say and who you say it to. You also need to be careful not to step outside “the box” because you might unwillingly step on someone’s toes – and embark on their ‘territory’.

There’s a lot to consider. To top it off, if you want to enhance your career you also need to connect with the right people. It’s not enough to just do your job and deliver damn good results. You need to manage upwards.

Having 4 General Managers (GM’s) in 3 years isn’t a walk in the park – and I made some big mistakes along the way.

These mistakes taught me 5 very valuable lessons about managing upwards.

1. Find out their agenda

Find out what they want to achieve in their role. When you have a new GM, they want to make their mark. They will change policies and procedures that might not make a lot of sense at first. Organise a strategic meeting with your new boss and get to understand their vision. This enables you to decide if it aligns with your goals and ambitions. It also gives you an idea if you are on board with their vision (or not).

2. Understand who your new boss is

Next to having their own agenda, they have a unique personality. Each of the 4 GM’s I worked for had a totally different management style. My mistake was to expect that their management style would adjust to me. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. If you have the same attitude, chances are that you will be ‘performance managed’ out. When you have a new boss, my advice is to ask them what they expect from their team. Ask them if they can describe the characteristics of what a good team member is to them, and how they manage their team.

3. Avoid being confrontational from the start

One of the GM’s I had came from another department. In my opinion, she had no understanding of my particular department and this showed up in numerous decisions she made. The mistake I made was voicing this from the start. This wasn’t smart for a couple of reasons. Firstly she was new to the department, and by undermining her decisions I was alienating myself. I wasn’t giving her the confidence that I was on board with her vision, or that I was aligned with her mission. Probably because I wasn’t – but that’s another story! Secondly, this can block your own career progression because you label yourself as ‘the trouble maker’ and ‘a difficult person’. This will be reported to upper management.

4. Make an ally, not an enemy

Look at the bigger picture. When you know the vision and leadership style of your new boss, you can make your own decision whether this is aligned with your personality and goals. When you know this is not aligned you can still establish a good professional relationship, and your new boss can vouch for you in many future occasions.

5. Never lose yourself. If it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work

If they have already made up their mind, it’s hard to change it. Often when you have a new boss they want to bring in their own crew. They make a quick first impression whether they want you on their team or not. If for some reason they choose not to have you in their team, don’t fight it. Let it go. I wasted too much energy trying to make it work, and trying to understand why it didn’t work. And to be honest, there was no logic or understanding. I just needed to accept it.

Every experience is different, and you have to make up your own mind. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support.

Hopefully, by reading about my struggles (and my suggestions on how to overcome them), you won’t make the same mistakes I did, but instead use these suggestions to turn a challenge into a positive situation.

What tips do you have for dealing with a new boss? We’d love to hear them in the comments!



Caroline De Kimpe

Caroline De Kimpe, is a Career Coach & Personal Brand Expert. She has been a successful recruitment consultant and coach for more than a decade, and she now enjoys helping professionals who are looking for purpose, direction and clarity in their career. She does this by helping them create a Personal Brand that is aligned with their life & career goals. Download her FREE cheat sheet here: http://www.newhorizoncoaching.com.au/career-cheat-sheet/ and get more clarity in your career.


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