02/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Be the New Boss

There's no question that many daunting tasks -- from the global financial meltdown to the Iraq war -- await our new president, Barack Obama. To start on the right foot and face these issues promptly, he'll have to implement the Obama-Biden administration as seamlessly as possible.

He certainly isn't alone. In companies across the world, new management is sweeping in to effect change and get business back in working order. But how do you do that without alienating the people who already work there? Once morale hits a low point, it's really hard to turn things around (even cupcakes on Friday afternoons can only do so much). Here, some tips to surviving the re-organization -- when you're the one handing out the pink slips.

Assess the past. No matter how great you think you're going to be as a boss, the bottom line is the company did exist before your arrival. You're not exactly reinventing the wheel here. Also, longtime staffers are great keepers of institutional knowledge: everything from why X client took their business elsewhere, to which assistant has the best candy stash. Use these people for the information they can provide. You'll put their mind at ease (everyone likes to feel like they've got an in with the new boss) and gain valuable dirt in the process.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. We watched Obama reel in Joe Biden as his VP, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and many others who have, at one time or another, expressed public disapproval of Obama's attributes or policies. But Obama recognized their knowledge and value, and decided to work with them anyway. Why? Because they're smart people who will make him look even better. Employ the same strategy when you're the new boss. If you're lucky enough to inherit talented, accomplished staffers, show them the respect they deserve. And if you do bring in some of your own people (which you have every right to do), don't get all cliquey by holding staff meetings and "forgetting" to invite existing colleagues, or by making a habit of only asking your "inner circle" for their opinions. This isn't high school, snowflake.

Be available. No matter how busy you are, always make time for your staff. Employees will find comfort in knowing their opinions and concerns are being heard. After all, a new boss signals change, and most of your staffers are coming to work every morning fearing that this will be the day you tell them to clean out their desks. Anything you can do to allay their fears will help them -- and you -- get the job done.