New Job Not What You Expected? Ask Madeleine

Funny Little Girl In Pink Goggles In The Swimming PoolDear Madeleine,

I was recently hired as regional manager of a large retail company. I come with lots of experience and a successful track record. In fact, my new company actually approached me and made me such a good offer, I couldn’t refuse. 

Unfortunately, I expected to be able to make some much needed changes and to have much more autonomy than I do. Now I feel like I’m stuck here with nowhere to turn.

People are resistant to change, I’m being micromanaged, and I’ve been given one of the toughest regions to turn around.  I’m not getting the support I expected at all. In fact, I can’t even get time on my boss’s calendar. He just says, “We hired you to do a job. Just do it.”

I feel like I’m drowning.  What should I do? 

—Drowning


Dear Drowning,

It sounds like the first order of business here is to recover from how terrible it feels to have expected one thing and ended up with something altogether—well—kind of awful.  It feels terrible because your brain goes a little haywire when expectations go unmet. You are in a constant state of fight-or-flight caused by a surplus of stress hormones.   So you’ll need to immediately calm down and take stock of your current reality without comparing it to what you expected.

If you really can’t let go, you can do a little ceremony to mourn your dream of what your new job would be.  It might sound a little nutty, but it can really help.  Write down your expectations on a piece of paper and then burn them in a fireplace, or cut them into little pieces and release them into the ocean, or bury them in the sand.  Get creative.  Give yourself a moment, have a cry if you need to, and let it go.  Then you will be ready to face your new reality and make the best of it.

To take stock, make a mind map of everything you feel needs to be changed and find the tiny pockets where you have some control.  Decide what you can actually do and start doing it.  Have one on ones with each of your people, listen to them carefully, and get a sense of their strengths.  Work in whatever change you can with one small change and one person at a time.  Change takes constant repetition and support. I am always surprised by how much constant effort it requires.  Buckle down and do one thing at time.

I am a little confused that you say you can’t get time with your boss, but you also say you are being micromanaged.  Is it that your boss expects you to get different results using the same methods that got the results currently being produced?  If that is the case, you’ll have to choose one big change to take a stand for, write it up carefully with a special focus on the outcomes you expect to produce, and basically tell your boss you are going to try it.  That is doing your job. The worst thing that can happen is that he says no.

You aren’t actually drowning; it just feels that way.  The good news is that nobody dies in retail.  Let go of what you expected, get crystal clear about your current situation, and decide what you can do and what you are going to do. Look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of your experience and your track record.  Choose to step up and win in this situation.   Swim.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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