What to Do If Your New CEO Is an Incompetent Jerk

Finding a work environment where you can thrive is not easy. And even when you get to a place that seems ideal, the dynamics can always change, especially if your company goes under new management. New bosses may be incompetent, unethical, or a disastrous combination of both. With every new change in leadership comes the risk that they will turn the workplace into a toxic environment.

“These situations create tremendous uncertainty for people at work, which is really psychologically damaging,” said Tessa West , a psychology researcher at New York University and author ofJackass at Work: Toxic Colleagues and What to Do About Them . “It’s not just that you have new management, which is bad; the point is you have new management and you don’t know all the ways they’re going to be bad and you don’t know when it will affect you.”

To survive a leadership change, you need to be able to see the situation for what it is and strategize for your next best course of action. “The reality is that sometimes when there’s a change in leadership, the work we’ve been doing doesn’t adapt,” said Alaina G. Levin , professional speaker and author ofNetworking for Nerds: Find, Access, and Find the Hidden. Game-changing career opportunities are everywhere . “You will survive, but your work may not survive, so put up with the idea.”

Given that this can happen anywhere, in any company, and for a variety of reasons, West and Levin recommend the following strategies for surviving a new leadership change.

Three main red flags to look out for

With the exception of a few dramatic examples, the effects of major management changes often take time to show up at work. “Most of the time it’s more like a slow burn,” West said. “It happens slowly, incrementally, and nothing feels bad enough to leave.” West recommends paying attention to three main red flags when deciding whether you should stay or leave: whether there is silence from upper management, whether there is a huge element of uncertainty for you or your boss, or whether a lot of people are leaving. company.

“The first question people should ask themselves is: does this create psychological insecurity for me and does it create it for your manager?” West said. “If your manager keeps changing direction or doesn’t know what to do, you’re in trouble.” This psychological uncertainty can be incredibly stressful, which has an impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.

The second red flag to look out for is whether leaders communicate with the people they are watching. “It’s not that you get a whole bunch of mixed messages or see a firestorm, it’s that you don’t hear anything at all, which is terrible because it means they are fighting each other so hard that they even I don’t know what to tell other people,” West said. “If you can’t hear anything at all, then they’re locked in a room and yelling at each other.”

The third alarm is that other people are starting to leave more often than before. “One of the biggest determinants of creativity, innovation, and purpose at work is not the work we do, but the people we work with,” West said. “Losing other people at work is a huge predictor. Start looking for that bleeding. As West says, if all your friends leave, you need to leave too.

How to save the situation

As Levine suggests, every time there is a new leadership change, you need to make a very specific account of what you did in your position and what effect it had. “You always want to record and track your contributions,” Levine said. “If there are changes, you will be able to tell your new leader what you have done to improve conditions in the company. This can help you keep your job or get an even better job.”

Levine also recommends connecting to your network, whether it’s people you know at your current company or people you know outside the company. Within a company, having a wide network of contacts can help you weather any impending change, as there will be more people familiar with your work and potentially able to protect you if your particular department or position goes down the drain.

Reaching out to other people in your network can help you figure out what’s going on in your company. “What you need is an independent point of view to say, ‘Is this normal?'” Levin said. This is when having a very diverse network of people at different levels and in different companies can be especially valuable as they can help you understand what’s going on.

How to make a long-term plan

One of the hardest parts of working for a company that has become toxic or dysfunctional is feeling stuck. “When dealing with leadership changes, we often internalize what’s going on,” Levin said. “We also have a skewed sense of time, meaning we think that this indefinite period will last forever.”

Ultimately, if all signs point to you need to leave, you will need to start looking for your next job. However, as West cautions, when you’re in this position, you’ll need to be especially careful that your need to escape doesn’t override your need to do due diligence at any potential new job. “A huge mistake people make is not being critical because they are desperate,” West said. Asking questions about a potential new job and discussing your worth, intimidating given everything that’s going on, is an essential part of being able to survive and thrive.

You also don’t want to wait until things get too bad to leave. “When people find themselves in situations where it’s like dying from a thousand paper cuts, you need to get out early,” West said. “When there is a mass exodus, you don’t want to be in that bottom 30th percentile to leave because it comes with some stigma that you couldn’t get out and get a job while you could. It may or may not be true, but it is a stigma.”

Instead, leave sooner rather than later, and do your best to make sure you’re leaving for the better and not just running away in any way possible.

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