Advice for Dealing With a New Boss

How to Handle a Regime Change at Your Advertising Agency Job

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As sure as night follows day, you will get a new boss at some point in your life. Perhaps your boss, a creative director, is fired to make way for fresh blood. Maybe your agency merges with another, and a new account director or CD is put in charge. Maybe your boss quits and gets replaced by someone very different.

The Realities of Advertising Agency Turnover

In advertising, regime changes happen all the time. Agencies merge, and merge, and merge again. Creative people quit and get replaced. Others get let go for a very different type of creative personality. The advertising industry seems to both suffer from and thrive on turnover.

When you end up with a new boss, you will naturally have concerns and hesitations about the person who's now steering the agency ship. But the last thing you need to do is let worry, paranoia, and gossip get in the way. Change is inevitable in life, and when you embrace it, you can foster it and help it grow.

The Do's of Having a New Boss

There are many things you can do to make a new management situation work in your (and everyone else's) favor.

  • Do Give Your New Boss Every Chance to Succeed.
    Your new boss has big plans for the agency and their department. You can help or you can get in the way. These plans may be beneficial if you give them a chance—especially if things weren't going terribly well before they arrived.

Keep in mind, it may take a while for the new boss to implement their plans, so don't expect a rapid turnaround.

  • Do Treat Your New Boss with Respect.
    Smart alecks and whiners don't get far. Snarky comments will be remembered. This is not the time to show disdain for your boss's hiring. They were no doubt competing for the job against some other very creative and talented people and came out on top. Respect that.
  • Do Be Willing to Learn From Your New Boss.
    Look at every new boss on a creative team as an opportunity to learn from their experience. They will probably have done things in the industry you have never attempted. Even if you ultimately find the two of you aren't creatively or personally in sync, you will have gained something from having worked with them and you can be grateful for that.
  • Do Realize That Your Boss Is Under Greater Pressure Than You Are.
    Your boss has to learn about important clients, their brands and images, and the players within the agency. They're no doubt feeling pressure to make a big impact right away. And not only do they have to shine in their own role; they also have to make sure everyone underneath them is shining too. So give them a break.
  • Do Take the Time to Introduce Yourself Properly.
    Hiding in your cubicle or office is not going to endear you to your new boss. You don't want to be the quiet mouse who hopes to avoid trouble by not being noticed. Yes, your boss will be busy, but they should have 10 minutes available to meet a member of their team. A good boss will want to meet you anyway and get to know you. So why not show some initiative and schedule the meeting?
  • Do Use That Meeting to Sell Yourself.
    Your job involves selling people on brands and ideas. Go into the meeting with your boss prepared to make the case for why you're an invaluable member of their team. Don't sell yourself too hard, but make it clear you're someone they can rely on to get the job done.
  • Do Take On Uninteresting Assignments Willingly.
    If the new boss wants you to work on an unsexy campaign instead of the exciting one you were hoping to be put on, suck it up and do your best work. Outperforming on a boring project others might have phoned in could make you seem indispensable. And it could land you the next plum assignment.
  • Do Be Prepared to Change Your Ways.
    Your old boss may have liked you to submit completed work or present ideas in certain ways. Your new boss will almost certainly have different preferences. Saying "this is how it's done" will not work in your favor. Be flexible.

As long as you do your job well, you should fit into the new way of working.

The Don'ts of Dealing with a New Boss

In addition to making sure to do the right things, don't fall into these traps.

  • Don't think you know more about advertising than they do.
  • Don't panic and decide you need to jump ship to another agency right away; give the new relationship time to reveal itself.
  • Don't badmouth clients. They're your ultimate boss.
  • Don't take it personally if the new boss doesn't love what you think is your best idea ever. They're probably not shooting it down for personal reasons.
  • Don't suck up; it's not appealing, and it's very transparent.
  • Don't try to undermine your boss's authority by going above or around them in the agency's hierarchy; doing that will come back to bite you very quickly.
  • Don't use the new boss as a sounding board for every grievance.
  • Don't start gossiping about them even though gossip can sometimes seem like the lifeblood of an ad agency.
  • Don't expect a promotion or a raise to happen quickly; that will take time.

If you approach your new boss with an open mind, give them the benefits of patience and understanding, and are courteous without being sycophantic, everything just might work out fine.