Illustration: Rob Donnelly

The Careerist: Making Nice With the New Boss

March, 2016

There’s a new boss for our division and I fear I made a lousy first impression. Where do I go from here?

Ch-ch-cha-changes. Ah, David Bowie, may he rest in peace. According to Aden Kirschner Nepom, of the Art of Change, an Austin, Texas-based training group specializing in communication skills, there are many ways to move forward during transitions. Nepom has a background in improv and often employs its terminology when working with organizations.

“We talk about buoyancy and flexibility,” she says. “Admit when something has gone awry. It’s OK to say, ‘We may have gotten off on the wrong foot. I’d like to make it better.’ Most people will respond very positively.” As a bonus, you may be pleasantly surprised if your new boss doesn’t share your discomfort. As they say in the mindfulness biz, “Thoughts are not necessarily facts.” Just because you’re not getting along with your boss doesn’t mean your boss feels the same way.

Once you’ve cleared the air, the best way to forge a relationship is to find out what matters most to your new boss, Nepom suggests. “What is valued? What is prioritized?” And assume positive intent. “While there are evil people in the world, it’s highly unlikely your new boss falls into that category.” Your boss has reasons for doing what he or she does. You might disagree with the methods, but usually the motivation comes from thoughtfulness and intent. “Get to know the whys behind your boss’s decisions. When you come from a place of genuine curiosity, that sends a signal that you want to learn, want to help and want to support what is important.” Which should impress any boss.

My husband insists on checking his email first thing in the morning and last thing at night on his smartphone. I say this isn’t healthy; he claims it’s normal and I should get over it. What do you think?

You want to hurl that damn thing out the window, I hear you. Yet the dynamic between human behavior, demographics and email is a complicated one, and he may simply feel more urgency regarding his inbox than you do. I found a 2015 study out of the Future Work Centre in England with interesting data: iPhone users felt more pressure than Android or Windows phone owners to constantly check their email. The researchers don’t know why; it could be the type of people who buy iPhones or the type of jobs they tend to have, or it could be the design of the phones.

People who work in IT, PR, marketing and Internet-related jobs reported feeling the most pressure from email. Email pressure was highest in younger people and decreased as people got older – unless they were managers, who felt stressed by the tool no matter their age.

All that said, the study also noted, “It seems that when we check email is associated with perceptions of email pressure. Checking email earlier in the morning or later at night is associated with higher levels of perceived email pressure.”

Your husband may very well need to check his email more than you and, yes, checking it first and last thing adds to his stress. So you’re both right.

For the complete report, go to tinyurl.com/study-email.

I was recruited from the Mainland. I love my job and Hawaii – but my wife is miserable. What can I do? 

Give it time. I’ve thrice moved cities as an adult and it’s always taken me at least a year to find my footing. Speed up the process by checking out www.meetup.com/cities/us/hi/honolulu/, where you’ll find like-minded people, from vegans to military wives and, yes, even quidditch enthusiasts.

I was curious how recruiters talk to potential employees about making a move across an ocean, so I spoke with Brian Matterson. He’s a Hawaii-based technical recruiter for Greythorn, a company that specializes in big data and cloud computing for Seattle and the Bay Area, and has also worked in London, Paris, Dubai and Sydney. He says he weaves the relocation question into the earliest conversations with potential candidates, asking things like, “Is your family onboard? and “Are your kids in school?”

Sometimes, Matterson says, candidates haven’t fully thought about the logistics of a big move. He helps guide the process with questions like, “When do you see yourself walking into this office from the date of acceptance?” because companies don’t want to hear a timeline of three months from now. “I recently had a guy who had been living in Switzerland for five years. He accepted a job, signed on Christmas Day and started Jan. 25 – an international move in only one month.” That type of turnaround takes an incredibly supportive spouse and family, and ideally, some infrastructure. In his case, for example, the new employee had family he could crash with in California until his family could get settled.

“A lot of the conversation is ensuring that the spouse is happy,” Matterson says. “If you wait until they get an offer, and then you talk about the spouse, it’s difficult. In fact, I have to clear that hurdle with anyone, whether they are moving or not.” As a recruiter, Matterson says, “You have to read between the lines a lot.”

Does he have advice for a malihini? “I’m from Philadelphia originally and everyone from the Mid-Atlantic is really uptight and is go, go, go, and you come to a place where there is less of a concept of a clock. If you can stay three full months on island and go through everything, bitch and moan and let it all out, how slow the lines are, just get it all out. Then you’ve got to drink in what Hawaii offers. Go to the beach, go hiking. The first time I left the Islands and went to LAX and felt the tension and stress in the air, I was like, ‘Ew.’ That’s what solidified me staying. It’s been 19 years now.”


Have a question about work, life and that place in the middle where it all gets tangled up? Ask me at:

TheHBCareerist@gmail.com

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