Q. My boss got fired. That’s not what they are saying, but there is no way he would leave this quickly, to “retire.” They aren’t saying what will happen now, who will replace him, what will happen to us or what happened at all. It doesn’t seem right to not tell us what is happening to him or what will happen to us. Is there something we should do?
A. Personnel changes are the most disruptive and sensitive situations organizations can face. When any manager leaves an organization, there are many unanswered questions; people speculate, rumors start, confusion can follow and emotions run high – usually with very little information; this is not what leadership hopes for. The goal is to have a plan in place that allows those impacted to rest easy, clearly outlines next steps for remaining staff and keeps the business unit functioning. In times of transition, many organizations fall short.
This situation must be frightening for you and your colleagues, yet your first concern and that of the organization should be how to treat your boss and maintain the business. People leave organizations for many reasons and under many circumstances. Information is kept confidential to protect peoples’ privacy. Your boss may want to offer more information and may not be able to based on a separation agreement, or the need to develop an agreed to public statement. The organization may want to offer more information, but is subject to the same agreement, other types of restrictions and in respect of your boss’s transition.
Further information is not presented because the leaders don’t have it or there is a sequence of events and communications that need to pan out to protect the organization. Transition plans are complicated and rewiring reporting relationships takes time and communication that may not yet be available.
Now is the time for you to step up. Let your boss know you will support him in any way you can, and when he knows what this is to let you know. Let your boss’s manager know that the current climate is challenging and people need reassurance. Encourage him to remain visible and inform people that information and answers are coming very soon and he appreciates people’s patience. Offer to be supportive in any way you can. Stay positive; don’t engage in rumors that portray anyone as evil. Most employers are doing the best they can, and sadly sometimes it’s less than what you or they hoped for.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners