What To Do When The Boss Resigns

A job for life is as rare as ‘hens teeth’ these days with very few people staying with the same company for their entire career.

So even though career movement has become more common place, a colleague leaving a business can be an unsettling situation for you or for fellow team members. As a result, you could find yourself questioning your colleague’s decision, and possibly your own future at the company, or in some cases, popping open that bottle of champagne if that particular member of staff has been a disruptive influence. However, if the individual moving on is your boss, it can create feelings of unease and uncertainty impacting more broadly across your organisation.

Don’t panic!

Self preservation is the highest and most distinctive part of human nature. It will be natural for you to feel concerned about your own future once your boss leaves. What will my new boss be like? Will my role change? Will my promotional criteria stay the same? Can I still play “Fantasy Football” in work hours? Can I still sneak away 30 mins early on Thursdays to go to sports training? Will I like them? Will they like me!? Is the company falling apart? Will I be out of a job soon if I don’t leave?

I’m exhausted just listing the questions above, let alone thinking about them, but these are a natural reaction to a major change at work. Take care not to let negative thoughts run away with you. Work on facts not fears, accept that uncertainty is just the nature of the beast. Keeping morale high is important – negative comments and shared anxieties amongst a team can quickly poison the atmosphere at work.

It’s not personal, is it?

So what are the five most common reasons someone decides to resign from an organisation:-

  1. Not feeling valued within the organisation
  2. Lack of recognition for a job well done
  3. No opportunity to progress
  4. Lack of ‘connectivity’ with the people and the culture of the business

People generally move jobs because they want to improve their lot in life and progress their careers. Colleagues and bosses are transient and should not form the basis of a major life decision such as a job change. Remember, your boss isn’t leaving because of you and won’t have taken the decision to leave lightly.

5. Don’t respect/like/get on/agree with the boss

Could this be good for your company?

Are you putting your boss on a pedestal? You may have liked them as a person, but realistically, were they the best person for the job?

Think about how passionate they were about the company, did they inspire you? Were they culturally aligned to the business? Did they do all they could to develop you? If not, then in the nicest way possible- this could be a good chance for an upgrade!

On the other hand, if they really were that great, then be grateful that you were able to learn from them, remember and implement the key lessons that they taught you.

Remember that change is good

Change within an organisation can be a positive thing, yet very few welcome it. You might fear the unknown, recall other negative experiences of change and generally assume the worst.

The key to coping well if your boss resigns is to take a step back to assess the situation, embrace the likely change this will bring and adapt your own role and attitude with readiness.

 View this as an opportunity for growth

Be proactive in seeking out a discussion with your boss’s boss, to find out what this means for your future career. Ultimately, think how you could use this inside information to push your own career forward in a subtle and professional manner.

This could be your chance to move up to the next level, to really get your ideas heard, to showcase your talent and ambition. Make it known to the powers that be, that stepping into a more senior role is of interest to you, and that you are committed to the future success of both the team and the company.

Don’t be bitter

If you feel you have been passed over for promotion by not being asked to replace your boss, it is better that you have an open discussion with senior management. Explain that you feel you are able to step up a level and hope there is scope for you to do so. If not, you may feel that it is time for a complete change. Perhaps your boss’s departure was just what you needed to motivate yourself to find a new challenge elsewhere?

Either way, this is a good chance to re-evaluate your goals, more so, the necessary steps to achieving them.

In summary, when your boss resigns, it is essential to maintain a positive attitude. Positivity is infectious; it will do wonders for team morale, as well as your own. You will also be able to see the personal opportunity in the situation, learning important lessons about your organisation, your ambitions and your future.

Jason Walker
About the author: 

Jason Walker is a Management Board Director at Hays Specialist Recruitment, a  leading global professional recruiting group. He has been with Hays in a number of executive roles since 1996, and served as the Vice Chairman of United Way New Zealand for five years.  Follow Jason on Twitter.