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EMPLOYMENT ADVICE COLUMN: How to Handle a Difficult New Boss

Dear Joanna,

I’ve been working at the same company as an administrative assistant for almost six years with the same supervisor. She recently retired, and it was a sad day for me and my colleagues as she was an inspiring, competent leader who knew how to train, motivate and respect her team.

I have recently been assigned a new boss who likes to micro-manage and has a tendency to be distant and punitive. I feel like quitting my job that I love and am a top performer as well. How do I handle this new boss?

New Boss Problem (NBP)


Dear NBB,

In today’s rapidly changing economy and labour market, it’s no surprise that you have a new manager. This is a common occurrence as companies are being bought-out, changing to meet the new demands and the fast-paced changes in technology. The issue is to learn how to respond appropriately as well as protect yourself and your job at the same time. The worst thing you could do for your career is to wait for this new boss to change or to demonstrate your distrust and dislike of this new employee.

According to Terry Corbell of, as well as the JVS employment counsellors, here are some suggestions:

1. Think before speaking. Aligning yourself with this new boss is very important for your current job and career aspirations. It’s important to remember that It’s not what you say, but it’s how you say it. Don’t speak with finality with an accusing tone, for example: “This is a problem.” Instead, ask a non-threatening question, such as: “Is it possible that the problem is…?” In this way, you’ll help open the door to a team discussion.

Fighting and being resentful doesn’t work.

2. Be flexible and adaptable. Employees always want the new boss to fit into their former ways of doing their job. You will have to be the one to change, adapt and understand the manager’s ideas and how he or she likes to get the job done. Always be eager and positive when approaching this new person. Keep your resentment and desire to fight in confidence. Vent with friends outside of the workplace. Keep positive at work and do not complain to your colleagues or gossip.

3. Prove yourself. Take responsibility for building a loyal and trusting relationship. As with any professional or personal relationships, you will need to prove yourself all over again, from the beginning just as you did with your former boss. No matter how good your past relationship was with your former boss, take the initiative to learn the new boss’ preferences and note if there are any changes that need to be made regarding processes and procedures.

4. Beware of giving advice. As you welcome your new boss with open arms, and are positive and initiate help and support, there is a tendency to offer advice about how “things are done around here”.. If he or she does ask you for advice, it could be a good sign that the new boss is starting to trust you. Be careful to respond with just the facts.


To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email

Joanna Samuels, M.Ed., CMF, CTDP, RRP, is a certified Life Skills Coach, and

Personality Dimensions Facilitator is the employer services lead and job

developer/job coach at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS Toronto), and part-time

instructor at George Brown College.