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No First Impression Works Best With New Boss

April 13, 1998|JIM SHEA

New boss.

This can be very tricky.

Essentially, I think there are two approaches:

a) Try to make a good first impression.

b) Try to make no impression.

Personally, I usually go with the latter. I take this route because:

a) I generally need at least several chances to make a passable first impression.

b) I have come to understand there is an art to planting a big wet one on a fanny, and it should not be attempted by those lacking a natural-born, lips-on affinity for the work.

In other words, leave the sucking up to the professionals.

And just who are the pros? Surely you have seen these 9-to-5 knaves in action:

They yes ma'am.

They can do.

They wear what the boss wears, even if it means cross-dressing.

And really, what does it get them outside of a nameplate and simulated wood-grain desk?

Bad hours.

Bad stomach.

Bad wardrobe.

No, when a new higher-up is introduced into the workplace, the amateur's best bet is to lie low. Disappear into the underling self-preservation program and wait to see how things shake out.

The most important thing to determine is this: What kind of boss type are we talking about here:



John Gotti?

During the low-profile phase, the greatest danger to anonymity will be: The Meeting.

At The Meeting, the following two things will happen:

a) The new boss will give a pep talk laced with war, sports and nautical metaphors.

b) You will be invited to ask questions.

Do not take the bait.

Besides blowing your cover, no good can come from asking a question because:

If you ask a dumb question, you will be branded.

If you ask the question everyone wants to ask--"How in the world did you ever get this job?"--you will be branded.

One thing you should do at the meeting, however, is listen for the words "fine-tuning."

If the new boss mentions the words "fine-tuning," your first reaction should be "resume." "Fine-tuning" is boss-speak for "clean house."

Eventually, the time will come when you have no choice but to interact with the new boss.

You will be nervous because, this is, after all, the person who approves the vacation schedule.

Rehearsal is key.

She will ask: Where have you been hiding?

Your best response: Who are you?

She will then point to the nameplate on her simulated wood-grain desk.

You then imply you have been so absorbed in your work that you didn't even realize she had arrived. But welcome.

She will not buy this, but then that is to be expected.

This being, of course, only your first crack at making a passable impression.


Shea is a columnist at the Hartford Courant. To reach him, write to Jim Shea, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.

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