Six Tips for Navigating Management Transitions

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Shortly after Hillary Clinton conceded the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump, President Barack Obama held a press conference, announcing that he had instructed his staff to work hard to ensure a successful transition to the White House for the Trump administration. In his remarks, Obama reminded reporters and the American people that the “peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy.”

Whether you work in the White House, at a healthcare facility, factory, financial institution, manufacturing plant or a construction site, management transitions are inevitable and they can be challenging. Taking our cues from the 44th U.S. president, top management experts and members of Aerotek’s recruiter panel, we’ve compiled some tips to make reorganizations and other transitions in the workplace go smoothly.

1. Acknowledge your fears

It’s natural to fear change, says Ban Weston, managing director of WM Consulting in Australia. “The growing research in neuroscience is proving the belief that ‘we are creatures of habit’ to be very true,” Ban writes for LinkedIn. “We like certainty. Certainty brings with it clarity and predictability, ambiguity, which can often come with change, activates a threat circuitry in the brain. This can trigger powerful effects on our body and our emotions — which we sometime refer to as ‘stress.’”

Management transitions are especially stressful when you see friends being dismissed and unproductive coworkers being promoted. Perhaps you fear that you will be the next person in line to lose your job. Despite those entirely understandable reactions, it’s important to remain optimistic in the face of change.

2. Reserve judgment

Now that you’re aware of your feelings, make a concerted effort to take a wait and see attitude toward new management and the changes they bring to the workplace.

Aerotek Sr. Professional Account Recruiting Manager Kaitlin Morkel advises her candidates to remain open-minded and flexible when a new manager takes over. Ban agrees with Morkel’s advice. “Instead of hiding from your fear and creating defenses to keep it away from you, be open and flexible to taking on new challenges and tasks,” she says.

3. Watch, listen and learn

Take some time to get to know your new manager or management team before springing into action recommends Kate Keller, a senior professional strategic delivery manager at Aerotek. “I would advise lying low in the beginning, concentrating on getting your work done, and slowly working towards getting to know your new leader and his or her style. Once you have observed your new manager and get an understanding of the things that are important to them, you can work towards partnering with them in a more concrete way and hopefully slowly develop a strong partnership.”

4. Communicate

Overwhelmingly, Aerotek recruiters stress that open communication channels between employees and new managers are key to successful transitions.

“The more communication, usually the better,” says Sr. Professional Recruiter Jackie Ross. “I encourage people to sit down with the manager and get to know them if they can. Beyond getting acquainted, make sure the new manager knows what your goals and aspirations are personally and professionally.”

Sr. Professional Recruiter Matt Wiehe couldn’t agree more. “Every new manager will have their own style, and while things may not always mesh right away, if people know what is expected and how to communicate issues that arise, the majority of the extra anxiety should be avoided,” says Wiehe.

“Learning what the performance measures and expectations are from day one and continuing to keep an open dialogue throughout an assignment or project will go a long way in making transitions easier and less stressful,” he adds.

5. Keep checking in

Don’t wait for bi-annual performance reviews to find out how your manager thinks you’re doing. Check in on a regular basis to see if she’s satisfied with your work says Sam Yeomans. “The most important thing with new managers is to solicit feedback and have regular discussions about expectations.” Consistent communication goes a long way in establishing rapport with anyone, especially managers.

6. Be part of the solution

“If you can embrace and cope with change, you'll be valued highly in your organization,” say the folks at Mind Tools. “You'll be seen as a flexible and adaptable team player, and this reputation can open up many opportunities. If, however, you consistently resist change, you'll be seen as ‘part of the problem,’" and you'll get left behind.”

So even if you loved the way your organization functioned before the change, be prepared to switch gears and become a cheerleader for the change effort. Your willingness to go with the flow will be rewarded in the end.

Aerotek Recruiter panelists Kate Keller, Kaitlin Morkel, Jackie Ross, Matt Wiehe and Sam Yeomans contributed to this article.

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