Starting a new job is full of stressful situations, but perhaps none is as intense as meeting your new CEO for the first time.
Whether you bump into them in the office hallway or wind up at the same table during the company picnic, these interactions can be a delicate balancing act between making a good impression and respecting the demands of what is sure to be a busy schedule.
Here are five tips to make sure you and the boss get off on the right foot:
1. Take cues from your coworkers.
Every company and CEO is different, so a good first step is to take cues from the people around you who have already been at the company for a while.
“How are the other colleagues at your level addressing the CEO? Do they use the CEO’s first name when speaking directly to him or her, or are they using something more official such as Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones?” said Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders.
2. Read the situation.
CEOs are busy people, and it’s important to figure out how open they are to chatting. Barbara Pachter, a business communications expert and the author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette,” says that it’s not a good idea to barge in if your CEO is in the middle of a conversation with someone else. But if you find yourself alone in the elevator with them, there’s no reason not to introduce yourself.
“There’s no downside to meeting people and acknowledging people, and seeing where it goes from there,” Pachter said.
3. Take initiative, but keep it short and sweet.
Pachter said it’s important to remember that building your career means more than just doing a good job while you’re at work. As such, new employees should find out what’s important to the company and get involved — whether that means attending a company blood drive or participating in a golf league with coworkers.
These extra-curricular events are great ways to come in contact with your CEO in a relaxed setting where they will likely be more open to getting to know you.
Still, rather than talking your CEO’s ear off, Pachter said it’s best to introduce yourself in a succinct manner, and then see where it goes from there.
4. Project confidence.
It’s easy to feel like you should be groveling at the feet of the person ultimately responsible for your paycheck, but both Pachter and Augustine agreed it’s important to give off an air of confidence.
This means dressing appropriate for your workplace, looking your boss in the eye, and having a good, solid handshake. Augustine said you use your body to send positive vibes by smiling, and, if seated, leaning forward a little to indicate interest in the conversation you’re having.
And make sure to keep your cell phone out of sight.
“I think you should always be polite and powerful,” Pachter said. “If you walk into a room, walk into it like you belong there.”
5. If there’s alcohol around, make sure to keep yourself in check.
Pachter tells the story of a young man who had a bit too much to drink at a reception for applicants to a fellowship he was hoping to win. During it, he put his arm around the head of the program and loudly proclaimed, “I love you, man.”
He did not receive the fellowship.
“Really, if you’re going to be meeting CEOs and presidents and heads of programs, people do get nervous,” Pachter said. “Stay sober. Because what you say can and will come back to haunt you.”
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