Taking Office … in a Hostile Environment

Donald Trump is now President of the United States. Unlike his predecessor, Trump could not count on the participation of big names in the music industry at his inauguration and there were even problems finding a prestigious fashion label to dress the new President and First Lady… He faced an authentic boycott.


It is an example of what can happen in companies on the arrival of a manager that nobody wanted: they will probably find themselves in a hostile environment, an uncomfortable situation that they must know how to manage before “taking possession” of the position. How can this situation be turned around? There are some basic principles to try to make the landing as smooth as possible:

  1. It seems self-evident, but an in-depth knowledge of the business is a sine qua non for the new manager that will make the landing smoother in a company where no one is going to make it easy. It is necessary to pass this first test with distinction. To do this, it may be necessary to seek the advice of experts to bring oneself up to date.
  2. Define how the relationship with stakeholders will be handled: superiors, colleagues, the team, customers, suppliers, administration, etc. Over some you have power, over others authority, and with others an influence that needs building.
  3. Know who is who in the company: With whom are we going to deal? What responsibilities do they have? What experience do they have? This analysis will let us know how to fit into the organization correctly. Once in the company, treat them with kid gloves, knowing that we arouse misgivings.
  4. With very few exceptions, there will be very valid professionals in the company on whom we will have to rely. Take note and make the most of their experience, seek their support. Personal relationships play a key role: cultivate them, build partnerships and a network of contacts will be particularly useful.
  5. It is better to avoid a revolution in the first few months and wait a while before gradually introducing the organizational changes that we think are convenient.
  6. Be guarded expressing opinions about the previous management team and avoid calling into question their decisions and working practices etc. It is more practical to ask questions than to criticize and thus avoid hurting the sensibilities of the people who were part of the previous management.
  7. It is important to bear in mind that in this first stage it is more important not to make mistakes and avoid conflicts and confrontations than to achieve great things.

It may seem that I am recommending the new leader to go virtually “unnoticed”: not at all. It is about acting with intelligence in a minefield, without giving up our personality or our style, but proceeding with prudence. After all, experience tells us that in these cases, managers are not only judged by results, but also – and a lot – on their relationship with the stakeholders.

About Guido Stein

Guido Stein is Professor in the Department of Managing People in Organizations and in the Negotiation Teaching Unit.

One thought on “Taking Office … in a Hostile Environment

  1. I totally agree with yours principles except from the number 5 and 7 in the case you are specifically recruited to make a revolution. Think for example in Pep Guardiola in the Manchester City. Do you really think his bosses, the newspapers and so on are gonna let him time not to make great things at the beginning and just not make big mistakes and avoid big conflicts? I’m sorry but this is not real life.
    Best regards

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