• Your boss leaving can spark a range of emotions
  • Work through your emotions and find the positives
  • Change can actually bring some great opportunities for you
If there’s one thing that gets the gossip machine working overtime, it’s when someone quits the company.

When a slacker gets their ass fired, it’s not a surprise to anyone. Everyone can see it coming. However, when someone decides to leave by choice, nobody knows why.

This is the moment when all sorts of shit gets stirred up. The rumors instantly spread to all corners of the organization. Everything from not getting along with bosses, joining a high-flying dot com, leaving an affair, starting a business, etc. It could be anything.

You’ve been in situations where a coworker you know quit the company. And usually, it’s not something you expected, but you kinda knew it was coming.

However, when you get the news that your boss is calling it quits, that’s a whole new level of shock. It stirs up a rollercoaster of emotions.

Usually, you get the news via a meeting notice with the team that has a very vague and non-descript subject line. It’s suspicious. And, your spidey senses are tingling.

You join the meeting with your colleagues and that’s when your boss breaks the news that he’s leaving the company to pursue another opportunity. Everyone’s jaw drops.

You barely even have the good sense to congratulate them because all you’re thinking about is how they’re for leaving you high and dry.

Don’t worry, you’re not a monster. You’re human.

However, if your manager was an asshole boss, you’d be low-key celebrating and doing mental fist pumps in your head.

On the other hand, if your boss was a good leader and was great to work for, you’re probably feeling like you’ve been deserted and dealt a bad hand.

It’s a whole mixed bag of emotions.

With a little time and consideration though, you can make sense of your feelings and make sure you handle this strange, new situation in the best possible way.

The 6 Stages of Emotions

There are some situations in life that stir up a whole range of emotions in you. Sometimes, you’re not even sure what you’re feeling.

“I’ve decided to move on” hearing those words come out of your manager’s mouth is one of those situations.

We’ve identified six emotions that tend to come up, and oftentimes they follow this order.

Depending on your relationship with your boss and the specifics of the situation, you might skip some of these stages. But if you do go through all seven, just know that you’re not alone.

1. Shock

Bosses aren’t supposed to leave, right?

They get paid more than you, they have a higher profile in the business, they get you to do all of the actual work - it seems like a sweet deal.

We’re too busy bitching about all the reasons our job sucks to stop and notice that it might be just as shitty (or worse) for those above us as well.

So the first emotion we usually get hit with is a big wave of shock. Shock can affect people in all different ways. One person might burst into tears while another bursts out laughing.

Instead of experiencing an intense display of emotion, you could go the other way and be totally numb, speechless, expressionless and emotionless while your boss just sits there waiting for a reaction.

Or of course, you might be so shocked, you can’t even make sense of what they’re telling you.

Whatever your reaction, just know that shock is totally normal.

We’ve got enough workplace stress to deal with as it is, so a bombshell like this can really hit us hard. And once the shock has worn off and reality sinks in, we tend to feel…

2. Abandonment

Wait, they’re actually leaving?! They’re leaving me?!

What am I supposed to do without them?

Since most of us - okay all of us - are self-centered almost 100% of the time, our first instinct about our boss’ reason for quitting will be that it’s all about us.

We’ve all heard the phrase “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers”. Well is that true the other way round too? Do managers leave because they’ve had it with their staff?

You’ll start to wonder whether you’ve been too annoying, not productive enough, too difficult to manage, not enough of an ass kisser.

The news will start to feel real personal, almost as if they’re breaking up with you.

If you have a great boss who has been supportive, fun to work with, and kind of like a mentor to you, then this abandonment quickly morphs into the ultimate question.

What the hell am I gonna do now?!

3. Fear & Panic

As you start to imagine life without your boss, you realize that they actually do quite a lot. You just don’t see or hear about it every day. And now, it’s really dawning on you.

Who will you go to when you’re stuck on something?

Who will be there to give you that boost of motivation when you’re facing a challenge?

Who’s going to be your advocate and push for you to get promoted?

Who’s going to bring the team together and make shit happen?

Who’s going to be the buffer between you and upper management?

And then an even scarier thought comes to mind.

What if the new boss is a total asshole?

Or, what if I’m actually terrible at my job and the new boss realizes this and fires me?

Yes, it sounds dramatic. But, these are all the things that run rampant in our heads when we find ourselves in such uncertain times.

And the more we catastrophize, the more fear and panic builds. Until it transmutes into...

4. Sadness

They say you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. All this imagining what the future holds really drives the point home. Your boss won’t be around anymore.

It truly is a stroke of luck when you find yourself in a position where you actually get along with your manager, so to see them go is inevitably going to suck.

Even if you stay in touch, things won’t be the same. Work will feel like a totally different place. Well, actually, it will just be the same old place, but missing one of the few positives like a good boss to report to.

5. Envy

Your boss, however, is onto bigger and better things. While they leave you here in the trenches.

Whether it’s a new job in another company, an early retirement or a leap into entrepreneurship, whatever they are doing seems new and exciting to you.

You start to wonder why you aren’t doing something new and exciting. You look around at the dreary office, the same four walls you’ve been staring at for the last 3, 5 or 10 years.

And then you imagine your soon-to-be-ex-boss working in an office with kick-ass work perks, cruising in the new car they’re suddenly able to afford or riding a camel at some far off exotic destination.

And then, finally, because you’re not a total ass, you start to feel...

6. Joy

As you imagine your manager’s new life, you can’t help but smile.

Sure, managers aren’t meant to leave but you’ve seen the hours of hard work they put in, the thankless tasks they’ve had to do and the huge impact they’ve had on your own growth and wellbeing at the company.

To see them succeed and progress is actually pretty rad.

Besides, they’ve always supported you and you know they will continue to do that even after they’ve moved on.

And once they do leave, you’ll be able to cut out the bullshit formalities and have more frank discussions about work, the company and even life. Hell, you might even become friends!

Okay, let’s not get too excited.

But the future is definitely bright for your boss and that’s something to be happy about.

They deserve it after all! Even if they are selfishly leaving you behind 😉

How To Work Through The Emotions

Lego fear desk
Now, as with any emotions, it’s important to work through these, so you don’t end up getting stuck.

It could be easy to stay in a place of fear and panic, concerned about what the future holds but with no way to control it.

That’s why, upon hearing the news, what you do next is key - not only for your own mental health and wellbeing, but also to maintain a good relationship with your former manager after they’ve departed and your new upcoming manager.

1. Talk Directly With Your Boss

Depending on who delivers the news, it can be tempting to go on a hunt for information in all the wrong places.

You don’t want to get caught up in office gossip - not only because nothing positive ever comes from it but also because you might not get to the truth of the matter.

Instead, talk to the person at the heart of the situation - your boss. There’s no need to feel shy or coy about things.

Just ask them straight up, “What the fuck happened?!”

Okay, you probably want to ask in a slightly more professional manner. They’re still your boss for another few weeks after all.

But as their direct report, you have a right to know what’s going on and how it might affect you.

Some useful questions are:

What made you decide to leave?

Is there anything that could have made you change your mind?

Do you know if there are plans to replace your role?

What’s the plan for covering your work in the meantime?

Is there anything else I should know/be prepared for?

In some cases, this could bring to light that your boss is being forced out or is quitting because of some shitty circumstances. Knowing this information can help you to understand whether you’re at any risk.

Most of the time though, it will be the usual reasons - not enough money, not enough fulfillment, personality conflicts with upper management, better opportunity or just simply time for something new.

Hearing this from the horse's mouth will help allay any fears that you’re the cause of their exit or that there’s any funny business going on.

2. Speak To Your Coworkers

After you’ve spoken to your boss, take some time to discuss the situation with others affected by it.

Remember, this isn’t an opportunity to gossip but rather to support each other through the many feelings that may be coming up, share insights on how the transition will work and generally keep the mood positive in the wake of some bad news.

If you can reassure each other that work will get done and that you’re all in this together, it will help to keep tensions low and spirits high.

If you’re particularly affected by the change, it can also be a good idea to confide in your work BFFs - again, not to gossip about reasons for departure, but just for some support as you work through your feelings.

4. See Things Through Their Eyes

As well as working through your own emotions, remember to spend some time understanding your manager’s position.

This can help you to not take their decision so personally.

Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “Would I have done the same thing?”

Perhaps they’re your buffer against an overbearing senior executive.

Or, maybe they always seem to be working late.

When you learn about all the details of what they do day-in and day-out to, you’ll get a much better sense of what their world was like. Then, you can ask yourself whether you would seriously want their position.

This can be a very eye opening exercise.

5. Don’t Ruminate

No matter how you feel about your boss’ decision, it’s important not to dwell on it forever.

It’s entirely out of your control and, frankly, it’s none of your business. Sure, it affects you directly but they have to live their lives.

Whether you’re scared, upset, disappointed or anxious, focusing on these feelings won’t change anything.

Whenever you notice yourself being stuck in a negative thought pattern over the situation, make a conscious effort to focus on something else instead.

Breaking the cycle of negativity is a key step in turning things around.

This is why learning to quiet the asshole in your head is such a huge skill to have.

Of course, having your boss quit doesn’t just have emotional implications, it has practical ones too.

So, once you’ve worked through your feelings, it’s important to take some steps to ensure your future success.

Making The Transition

chalkboard next steps
We reckon the two most common reactions to hearing your boss is leaving are:
1) I’d better leave too
2) I want his/her job!

While these are both legit, it’s important to take some time to work through all your options before jumping into a situation only to regret it a few months down the line.

1. Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

Who knew that the Spice Girls lyrics could apply to career-pathing?

No matter what time of the year your boss decides to leave you high and dry, hopefully, you’ve already taken some time to do your career planning.

This is something you should do every year and review every few months.

If you haven’t got into that habit yet, then now is the time to do a review.

Pretend your boss isn’t leaving and ask yourself some big questions:

What do I like about my job?

What don’t I like about my job?

What would make me feel more fulfilled?

Am I satisfied with my financial position?

What are my career goals and do I feel I can meet them in this current company?

Figuring out the answers to these questions will help to give you an idea of whether your current position is in line with your long term goals.

If you find that the only good thing about your job is your boss, then that gives you a pretty clear answer.

But if you realize that you actually get a lot of fulfillment from your role and the company is exactly the kind of place you want to be, then maybe you’ll want to hold your horses on jumping ship or following your boss blindly.

When you go through this exercise, you may realize that the company is a great fit but you’re craving more responsibility and a challenge.

Well, what better time to go after those things than when a spot has just opened up above you?

Armed with a clearer view of your goals, it’s time to find out what opportunities await you.

2. Explore New Opportunities At Work

After your initial chat with your manager about their departure, ask for a follow up meeting with them in the next week or two.

Here, you can share your ambitions to take on more responsibility and maybe even step into their role.

Sit down with them and get a clear picture of the roles, responsibilities, pros and cons of their job. And, get their honest opinion on whether you have the skill set to step up into the position and what you can do to make it happen.

Ask for a timeline as well to be sure it fits with your plans and future goals.

This may sound nerve-wracking but the worst thing they can say is that you’re not quite there yet, and then that tells you that you either need to beef up your skills or you may want to look for your next step up elsewhere.

VIDEO: My Boss Just Quit!
YOUTUBE: Red Cape Revolution
LENGTH: 1:53
Summary points:
  • Be aware that your boss’ position may already be sorted out
  • Despite this, you should still make your ambitions known
  • Be curious and ask questions

3. Ensure A Smooth Transition

Whether you’ve decided to stay the course or jump ship at the earliest opportunity, it’s important that you ensure a smooth transition between your old boss and new boss, or between your old boss and you.

During the final weeks, work with your manager to ensure that information is shared, work is handed over and there are no loose ends.

Even if you’re not stepping into their shoes, you’ll certainly feel the pain of a poorly managed handover because we all know that shit always rolls downhill.

And, if you’re getting a new boss, being privy to all the knowledge they need to hit the ground running will be an excellent way to start your new working relationship and showcase your planning and preparation skills. 

4. Manage Your New Boss

When your new manager starts, be sure to intentionally manage the relationship. What we mean by this is that you’ve gotta manage your boss effectively.

Managing upwards is the best way to ensure a good working relationship with your higher ups and limit stress and tensions in the workplace.

Take some time to get to know their communication style and take the initiative to get them up to speed on how things really work in your company. The last part is especially important if your new manager is from outside the company.

They’ll appreciate the onboarding and you’ll position yourself as a useful resource to someone who has considerable influence on your progress at the company.

5. Stay In Touch With Your Old Boss

If you decide to stay at your company, you may take the “you’re dead to me” stance when it comes to bosses who have abandoned you.

But it’s important to keep a good relationship with them. You never know when your paths will cross again.

It’s not unusual for people to end up following their bosses to their new companies a few years later, usually in higher positions.

Aside from that, it’s always a good idea to have mentors and connections across your industry.

So, before you get drunk at their going away happy hour, make sure you exchange contact info and connect on LinkedIn - and then actually stay in touch with them.

If you haven’t set-up your profile yet, check out LinkedIn For Beginners to get started.

You don’t have to become BFFs but just a quick message every few months to check-in can go a long way to keeping the relationship alive.

Good Things Can Happen From Change

pavement arrows feet
It’s a sad, sad day when we realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us.

Our bosses don’t plan their career around what we want.

But sometimes, seeing them go for that new job or awesome adventure can actually inspire us to do the same.

What do we want from our careers and our lives?

If it’s a step up, then our bosses have actually given us the ultimate opportunity for growth. And if it’s a step in a new direction, then maybe their courage can give us that push of motivation that we needed.

Sure, this kind of positive reframing might come after a few hours or even days of moping around and repeating “I just can’t believe it!” to nobody in particular.

But that’s just a natural fog we have to go through before we can lift our heads up and see the bigger picture.

So your boss just quit.

You’ve had your little meltdown and mini-anxiety attack.

But, now the question is…

They’ve chosen their next adventure - what’s yours?

Feel Better,

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