Dilemma of the Month: My Boss is Leaving the Company

Back Event By Suzanne Lucas
My boss told me she is resigning. She has given a month’s notice, says she is leaving for a position that will help her grow professionally and still seems to have great relationships with her peers and boss, so I do not think this is necessarily a sign of something wrong with the company. This change impacts me greatly because the department is just the two of us and we’ve worked so well together. Will my new boss be as transparent and flexible and interested in developing me professionally as my current boss? What will I do if we don’t work together well?

The problem with a great job is that so much of that is dependent upon your manager. A good manager can turn a boring job into one where you learn a lot, feel valued and have time for professional growth. A bad manager can take a fascinating job and turn it into 40 hours of drudgery and paranoia, each week.

So, should you be panicked when your great boss resigns? In your situation, I wouldn’t panic at all. Here’s why.

Your boss has a good relationship with her boss.

Like you said, she is leaving for professional development reasons and there’s no reason to believe that statement isn’t true. If her boss was a jerk, you’d know. You’d know if she had been insulating you from upper management horrors. That’s not the case here. You know she is a good boss and that her boss is a good boss, so you have every reason to expect that your new manager will also be good.

Why do I say that? Because good managers aren’t just accidental. Your boss’s boss knows how to manage and how to hire well, because she’s done it in the past. That’s not to say mistakes aren’t possible — they are, but if your boss’s boss makes a hiring mistake, she should be able to deal with it. When you’re a senior level manager with a proven track record of good people under you, you’re likely to do it again.

The company is a good one.

I know nothing about your company other than what you’ve said, but there’s one key thing that stands out — your boss gave a one-month notice. In the U.S., two weeks is the standard. Legally (unless you have a contract), you don’t even have to give a five-minute notice, but the socially acceptable notice period is two weeks. Your boss gave twice that, which indicates that she expects the company to treat her well during the notice period.

Some bad managers turn their employees’ lives into living hell as soon as they give notice. They feel betrayed and can’t recognize that no one stays in a job forever. Your manager gave a month and things are still going well. Good companies attract good people. If a bad apple somehow gets through the screening process, she’ll either be managed into being good or kicked to the curb.

What if your manager was the only good thing about your job?

This doesn’t apply in your situation, because all signs point to this being a good job in a good company. But what if the situation were different? What if your boss’s boss was a jerk and your manager was running away as fast as possible? Then what should you do (besides panic)?

First, freshen up your resume. I don’t say this because finding a new job is easy. It’s not. But, there’s no reason to stay in a horrible place any longer than necessary. If you’ve only been in the position for a short time, you’ll want to tough it out to around two years, so you don’t look like a job-hopper. However, if you’ve already been there that long, there’s no need to stay with an unpleasant boss.

There are also things you can do to help get a good fit. Go to your boss’s boss and say, “I really enjoyed working with Linda because A, B and C. I work very well with someone who manages this way. When you’re interviewing, can you please look for people with these qualities?” You might even ask to meet with candidates, although some managers feel that the future direct reports should have no say in the hiring process. If you do get the chance, speak with the candidates about what type of manager works for you. Be honest. Remember, the last thing a job candidate wants is a direct report that she’ll clash with too.

Don’t panic!

No matter what, you don’t need to panic. Even if your new manager isn’t as awesome as your current one, chances are she’ll be a good person and things will work out just fine. They usually do.