Officer moves: 10 tips for employees getting a new boss

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Officers—or pastors—in The Salvation Army are generally moved to a new appointment every few years. And each year, many of these new appointments take effect in July. 

The Western Territory’s Youth Department hosted Public Affairs and Communications Manager Kathy Lovin on its SAY Network Podcast to discuss how to navigate an officer or supervisor change from an employee perspective, building on previous conversations related to officer moves with perspectives from soldiers and officers. Here are 10 ways to make the transitions a bit easier for all parties involved. 

1. Remember moves affect the lives of real people—and their families.

Kathy Lovin: I teach the cadets, and so I have a running sort of wish list in my head of where I hope people go based on the difficult things that might be going on in that community, so I think about it all the time…We know it’s a serious topic, but we think about it and try and have a little bit of fun with it. But it’s a serious thing for us, too. 

Jim Sparks: It’s actual people’s lives that are changing, and it’s a radical change…If you’re just moving a house or apartment or stuff like that, it is a major deal. Imagine having the odds of having to do that maybe every year or every couple years. It’s really kind of scary.

2. If you get a new supervisor, give them grace while they catch up with where things stand.

Megan Villalpando: When a new officer comes in I’m always…bearing in mind that whatever I’m working on I’ve been working on for a while. I have the full context. I know all about that thing, but just trying to be mindful that that new addition to the team—that new officer—coming in doesn’t know about it… I always just kind of try to prepare myself, just knowing that my work might slow down a little bit or that type of thing just because I’m going to need to kind of give them a crash course on what I’m doing, what I’m working on.

Kathy Lovin: They haven’t asked to come to our department, they’ve been assigned to come and contribute in our department and so we have to do everything we can to make them comfortable, but also make them successful. I think acting like it’s no big deal is not the thing to do. It is a big deal for them…we have to slow down to let them get on the hamster wheel with us.

Jim Sparks: It’s weird to think that someone’s giving you a new job to go in and everyone that works either for you or around you knows more than what you know going into it…there’s a lot of challenges and so I think sensitivity needs to be at its highest point in the department, and I think making light of the fact that they were moved is very dangerous to do during that time.

3. Embrace change.

Kathy Lovin: Each one has a different sort of world view and different sort of passion…I think that I’m up to maybe like 14 different bosses and everybody adds something, so now we have a whole sort of smorgasbord of things that were added over the years by somebody because they had a passion for this or thought, ‘Hey, I’ve always wondered why we don’t do more of this,’ and it just builds.

Megan Villalpando: Go in knowing that your culture is going to change—for the better—not that the last boss had a bad culture or anything like that, but the new boss can contribute something new, something different, something to your department as well, and to it to your team, ultimately. 

Jim Sparks: It’s part of ministry—we have to believe that God has placed them there for a very strong reason, and so we want to find what that is and support them however we can. 

4. Make them comfortable and set them up for success.

Jim Sparks: Being sensitive and going out of your way to make a transition as easy as possible…A few years ago…when I got a new corps officer and I highlighted on Google Maps all the locations of the restaurants and points of interest in the city, and my favorite restaurants that they could use, and where the kids’ school is in location. You could pin all those on one map and then create a link and send it to them.

5. Don’t compare them to previous bosses.

Megan Villalpando: I think the same with just carrying expectations over, and particularly if it’s your first officer change or the first time you’ve had a new boss sort of rotate in—it’s so tempting to be like ‘Oh, well so-and-so always did it this way or that way.’

Jim Sparks: When we had Major Ivan Wild and his brother replaced him, we did a lot of that…We used the same welcome poster for a Major Ivan that we did for Roy, but we just crossed out the names…We broke that rule for them and looking back, I didn’t need to break that rule. I would often say ‘Ivan would have approved this.’ 

6. Set your agenda aside.

Jim Sparks: Sometimes a trap that employees fall into with officer moves is kind of like power plays—when they know that there’s going to be a transition and so there becomes jockeying within departments because they might get a fresh start with someone else that they could maybe talk into getting them a better thing…I think that’s fairly common of when a department or a corps or anyone knows that they’re getting someone new… It’s just dangerous, and I think if that’s going on or you feel like you’re doing that, then that’s probably a symptom of your culture.

7. Remember what your role is. 

Kathy Lovin: No matter who’s sitting in the desk down the hall, the details of my job might change a little bit based on their priorities, but my job really still is to equip the field and mentor the field and to train, and hopefully model certain things, for the field so I really can’t let anything get in the way of that.

8. You might feel grief.

Jim Sparks: You could just be in pure grief mode and it has nothing to do with the person who’s now appointed to your area, and personally you could just be really upset your person has gone and having to deal with that, and that’s happened to me over the years. There’s been different people that I was like, ‘I can’t believe they’re gone, and this is crazy,’ and dealing with it, but I think talking it through and still constantly trying to see a bigger picture out of everything.

9. Keep perspective.

Jim Sparks: I think again the most important thing we need to recognize is that our lives are going to change a little bit. Their lives are changing a great deal. They’re going to a new place, they’re going to a new community. If they have kids, then their kids are going to a different thing and different school, and there’s a lot more emotion than on our end. 

10. Watch for signs of joy.

Megan Villalpando: A marker, I guess, for seeing if an officer transition is going well is if they’re doing something that they really love to do— so if they found some type of project, they’ve found some sort of little niche or focused area of something that they really, really love to do and they found that and they’re doing it as bring them a lot of joy…to me that’s the sign they’re settling in and kind of figuring out their role within that team.

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