Oh no! Your boss has been fired. Should you dust off your resume ASAP? First, take a deep breath. Second, examine the situation. It can feel nerve-wracking when your direct manager is let go. But, take a step back before panicking. It could be indicative of a broader reorg but it could also be a function of their performance or fit – which could even benefit you near and or longer-term. If it’s performance related, that may or may not have implications for you, explains professional coach Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That.
Find out or figure out why your boss was let go. It almost seems like an intuitive thought, but you really do need to determine why the boss got fired. This is probably the most critical piece of information you will uncover. Bosses don’t generally just leave. There will be a reason, and if you’re a current employee, you’ll likely know who to go to to find out what the heck happened. The person who knows may be a peer, or a company official/officer. Someone will share the story. Be sure of your source. Don’t listen to gossip, says Alan Guinn, managing director/CEO of The Guinn Consultancy Group, Inc., which coaches both small- to mid-size companies and their employees at mid to upper levels, as well as entrepreneurs and small business owners. I’ve seen good bosses slandered over actual sexual affairs, over supposed sexual affairs, and over supposed sexual dalliances, financial miscues, and religious linkages. It’s probably work related. If you’re an employee, you’ll have some work history and will know if the performance of the work unit was substandard and deserving of the boss being told to catch the Last Train to Clarksville.
So what steps should you take if you want to keep your job? When you determine if the performance of the work unit was substandard, find out why it was substandard. If you have recently joined the company, you have an opportunity to impress a new boss—if you are able to address the substandard performance in ways that could make the work unit improve. You may not even have to be right in the changes you suggest. Change for the sake of change may be exactly what is dictated, says Guinn. However, if you have been a part of the work unit for some time, and you know that performance of the work unit is substandard, look at it honestly and determine if the departing boss set unrealistic goals, was a poor planner, didn’t understand the basis for setting goals for subordinates, was chintzy with pay for performance or bonuses where there should have been rewards, or was just a jerk. There are some bosses who are just jerks, and subordinates can often find ways to create deep chasms for their bosses–never to be filled–to allow the boss never to look good.
Not only should you examine your former boss’s situation, take a look at your own place in the company and how you can make the best of the situation. Says Scherwin, There are always reasons to stay or go when this happensmake them yourself, personally, and not based on someone elses situation. Before doing anything impetuous, ask yourself the following questions to gauge your alignment with a new boss and his or her objectives: How can I benefit and grow in this time–are there growth opportunities presented by change?, Where are my sponsors and key supporters? and Where does my role fit in going forward? Look on the positive side. A change in your boss can be a great thing for your growth, development and exposure to different executive styles, notes Scherwin.
Still, put out some feelers just in case there will be more job cuts, including yours. In the interim, always be looking. If you are always seeking out new opportunities and having career conversations, you will likely be less stressed in uncertain times. Learn to expect it and you will better embrace it, advises Scherwin.