Questions to Ask a New Boss

Before you can know what questions to ask, you need to ask yourself what you want to know. Barring urgent projects that can't wait, keep your questions basic and to the point. You'll show you value the company's time and your own.

How many relationships end because of poor communication? One of the most important things to find out is how your new manager communicates [source: Stafford]. Everyone has his or her own style, and this person is no different. Most likely, you'll be the one who has to adapt. Does your boss prefer e-mail or telephone? Is he or she crazy about department meetings? It's as simple as asking about the preferred method. Working with his or her communication style will most likely save you and your boss some frustration and resentment.

Almost as important as communication is learning about your new boss's expectations. Your boss may not expect you to take out the trash or walk the dog, but just like at home, on-the-job expectations need to be managed. This is impossible unless you actually know what those expectations are. During your meeting, find out things like how and when reports should be produced. Where does he or she see the department going? What are the roles for people in your department?

Be honest and direct, but don't pile on flattery to ingratiate yourself. You'll be spotted a mile away, and it usually backfires.

Listen carefully to the answers. Entire books have been written on how to read facial expressions. You probably don't need to go to those lengths, but watch your manager's mannerisms -- tone of voice and how things are phrased -- in addition to what's actually being said. All of this will help you gauge this person's attitude, priorities and even potential pitfalls. Think about what opportunities your new boss presents for you in the organization [source: Reyer].

Your main goal in the first formal meeting is start building your work relationship. Don't try to accomplish everything all at once. There'll be plenty of time for that later. Once you learn the basics, it's time to think about any changes you might need to make. We'll talk about that in the next section.