First impressions don’t always give a full picture

I do not need a manager who gives pep talks and makes loud noises.
I do not need a manager who gives pep talks and makes loud noises.


I came back to work from much-needed summer holidays in a good mood as I was going to meet my new boss for the first time. (Our team has been waiting for a new manager for nearly eight months.)

I am disappointed to report my first impressions have not been favourable. He has spent almost all of the first day and a half roaming our office saying things like “New year, new you – guys” and “Folks, are we all ready and rarin’ for a huge year?” He claps and runs on the spot a lot.

I am an adult. I do not need a manager who gives pep talks and makes loud noises. I need one who is technically competent and a strong leader. Am I judging too quickly?

Work Therapy
Work TherapyCredit:John Shakespeare


Perhaps give your new manager a little bit more time before definitively writing him off.

It’s always sensible to trust your instincts at work, I think, and it sounds like your instincts are telling you this person is going to be a pain in the bum – but hold that thought as you observe and work with your manager over the next couple of months.

First impressions may last, but they don’t give the full picture. In fact, that’s their great weakness; they’re an initial glimpse into a character, a world view or a way of working – sometimes a startling one – but almost always based on a relatively brief encounter. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sighed internally when first meeting a colleague who I’ve ended up having a wonderful working relationship with.

Having said all that – clapping, jogging on the spot and mouldy new year cliches are, as you allude to, the sort of stuff you might expect after signing up to a cheap personal training service. Unless you work at a gym (and probably even if you do), this exuberant nonsense sounds wholly unnecessary and I can empathise with your annoyance and wariness.

Of course, from your manager’s perspective, the carry-on isn’t unnecessary. He’s doing it for a reason. It’s impossible to know for certain why, but we can make an educated guess. Here are my best two theories: The first is that he may be overdoing the “positivity” to make up for your team’s long period without a boss. If this is the case, take heart: he’s probably well-meaning and likely to settle down soon.

The second is a touch more worrying. In my experience, people resort to fatuous affirmations and physical buffoonery at work to fill a void.

Could it be that your new boss has arrived and found he has nothing to do? If this is the case, he could simply be a bit nervous and waiting for more information – marching orders, if you like – from his higher-ups. You might relieve his unease by talking to him about how he can help you with your work.

Or he could actually be the stereotypical middle manager: a man with a five-page position description that says nothing at all, existing in a corporate limbo where his only value is using words like “value-adding” at two-hour meetings.

If this is the case, he may not consider the stationary jogging and inane pronouncements as temporary placeholders for his real work – they may be his work.

If this is the case, your first instincts were right.

If this is the case, goodness help you.

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