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May 18, 2017 7:25 AM   Subscribe

How should I position being out of the office for a half day meeting on my new bosses' first day?

I have a new boss starting soon. I am setting up their agenda for their first few days in the office. I've been invited to an internal half day meeting on the same day at another location by an executive who runs another team in my department. I want to go and should attend. It doesn't make sense for new boss to go to as well. How do I delicately address this?

The meeting is important but tertiary to the core responsibilities of our department at the moment. It relates to a growing initiative at the company that could become more but we do not org into. My attendance is both practical and personal - I need the information as I will serve as an occasional point of contact for certain parts of its strategy, this is the easiest way to get the info, and I'd like the visibility of attending. It's possible that reorganization in the future could allow me to move to this team and open up a growth path for me that is currently closed due to new boss. I've been told by my management that the functions I would serve in this initiative are things I should "own," but that's not operationalized on paper and I don't know how it's been positioned to new boss.

New boss and I are similarly leveled and the differences in our jobs have not been clearly defined by our management, a largely absent corporate overlord that is across the country, doesn't understand our key challenges and is generally checked out of the nuts and bolts of how we operate. His onboarding is falling on me to coordinate and I've essentially been told I'm empowered to work out how to best figure out a rhythm with this person organically. This is dumb and bad management, but it is what it is and I won't be able to change that. This person is not being brought in to replace me - in fact, I was just promoted - but it's largely understood by everyone but corporate overlord that our responsibilities are overlapping and his role exists for political reasons more than practical ones. I'm not even convinced that corporate overlord doesn't agree privately as we have a strong relationship and maintaining my presence on the team has been an obvious priority to them and HR. My previous outgoing boss told management to not bother backfilling him, but corporate overlord is subject to their own corporate overlords, it happened, and now I have to figure out how to make it work.

In the grand scheme, my boss has a thousand if not a million things to learn about our business that are more pressing than this meeting, but the timing is bad. How do I peace out on his first day without setting our relationship off on the wrong foot? We've met once but I don't have a relationship established with this person. I want to respect his authority without undermining my own and cutting my options off at the knees. This is a big career bump for them and I've gotten the vibe that they might be biting off more than they can chew, so it would be easy for this person to view me as a threat. I do not want their job, have no desire to undermine them, and do not want to set up an adversarial relationship. I realize the limits of my control, but if there's an elegant solution available I'd like to utilize it.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I think you are way overthinking this. Your new boss is not going to care that you have a meeting to go to on their first day. I assume they have to meet with HR, IT, and tons of other new people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:30 AM on May 18 [75 favorites]

Is it possible to frame it as internal and/or mandatory training? A new employee would not anticipate or expect to attend a training session on their first day. Just make sure that there is someone available to show him around and make introductions, set him up with IT, etc.

Alternatively, can you appeal privately to corporate overlord to push boss' new start date back a day?
posted by vignettist at 7:31 AM on May 18

Agreed with roomthreeseventeen that you are overthinking, especially if you won't even be out for the whole day. Make sure you've got his schedule for the first day written down, make sure someone can greet him & shepherd him around, and don't worry about it. I would be surprised if they didn't need to spend the morning with HR. But if necessary, set up training meetings with people for the time you'll be gone.

Also make sure his work area is ready for him - he'll probably want to spend some time setting up his computer the way he wants to, etc.
posted by lyssabee at 7:36 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]

I read this a couple times and don't see the problem. Not at all to be dismissive! But the agenda is they will be trainings and you have a prior scheduled half day meeting. I wouldn't even WANT to be at a meeting like that because as a new person I'd be totally lost. Give them a meeting summary if you feel they need to be in the loop.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:37 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]

Yeah, if you're setting the agenda for the boss's first day, just schedule stuff that doesn't require your presence for the time you're at the meeting, and maybe designate a contact person for your boss to ask any questions while you're gone. I don't think most people expect to get a whole lot done their first day.

His onboarding is falling on me to coordinate and I've essentially been told I'm empowered to work out how to best figure out a rhythm with this person organically. This is dumb and bad management, but it is what it is and I won't be able to change that.

Honestly if you're similar-level professionals who will be working closely together, this doesn't sound all that bad.
posted by mskyle at 7:38 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

You are way overthinking this. Your boss is new; they lack any of the information required to suss out/read into the delicate internal political implications of your choosing to attend this particular meeting. All you have to tell them is that, "hey sorry, timing's unfortunate, but I have a project kickoff meeting from 9 to 12 on your first day. Here's what you need to get started, and then after my meeting maybe we could grab lunch and I can take you around the office to introduce you, does that work for you?" Or whatever schedule adjustment works for you. The important part is that you demonstrate a willingness to help get them off on the right foot. That is all that is required in this situation.
posted by Diablevert at 7:38 AM on May 18 [15 favorites]

This is 100% not a thing if your boss is an even slightly reasonable human. The most that's required here is "I'll be in meetings this afternoon, but [X] should be able to answer your questions / show you anything you need. If anything comes up that they can't help with, we can go over it together tomorrow morning. If you find yourself with some time to spare, it might be a good time to take a look at [the SOP manual, the annual report, the trade journal, whatever]. Sorry the timing's not great on this, but I'll make sure we have a good chunk of time blocked out tomorrow to discuss any questions that came up on your first day."
posted by Stacey at 7:56 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]

Could you clarify why you feel that this will be a problem? Do you have reasons, given your work culture, to feel that if you are not by the side of your new boss the whole time, he will view it as undercutting? In what way is he likely to perceive it as undercutting? If he does in fact view it as undercutting, what kinds of retaliation or hostility are likely given your work culture? Do you know him and have personal reasons to believe that he will react with hostility? Is there a strong culture of deference in your workplace, such that anything except asking "how high" when they say frog is viewed as insubordination? If you lay out some of these details it might be easier to figure out how to manage the problem.
posted by Frowner at 7:56 AM on May 18

Yeah, a lot of overthinking here. You just make a schedule for the day, ensure he's got something to do all day (with suggestions for how to fill downtime), and someone to take him to lunch/meetings if it's not you. Sample below:

8:00-8:30 -- Get coffee and take tour of office (I'll meet you at the South Entrance)
8:30-9:15 -- Check in with HR (Room 970)
9:30-10:30 -- IT set-up and orientation (your desk -- I'll be in a meeting until 1 p.m., so Jayne will be your POC)
10:30-11:30 -- Desk time (there is a an employee manual on your desk you can read--also worth poking around on the intranet)
11:30 - 12:30 -- Jayne and Derek will take you to lunch
1:00 - 2:00 -- Orientation meeting with team
posted by whitewall at 8:13 AM on May 18

The most you should go with something like, "Sorry -- I wish I could move this meeting to another day, but Tertiary People set it up and there were some scheduling challenges."

Sounds like you're thinking about this as a symptom of the larger "who's doing what, are they even functionally supervising me?" issues. I agree your workplace has issues there.
posted by salvia at 9:16 AM on May 18

Another voice saying that you have a non-problem. You have a meeting to go to; you're going to go to it. That's all.
posted by PMdixon at 12:23 PM on May 18

Presumably your boss has some kind of background and experience in something or other, hence his appointment to the position. He is likely aware of meetings, and if it is his first day, he will have tons of administrivia to take care of. Chillax!
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:30 PM on May 18

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