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My boss just quit. What next?
THERE'S no doubt that your relationship with your boss can either make or break your career. A manager who has your back and gives you opportunities to grow is rarer than the rarest Pokemon.
If you ever had the good fortune to work under such a boss, it can be devastating when that person resigns without warning.
Feeling worried or even cheated is not unusual, especially if you were the previous manager's right-hand man or were groomed for leadership.
But instead of panicking and speculating, take some active steps to salvage the situation, to make sure your hard work does not go up in smoke.
Managing the transition
It was a situation Cynthia Stuckey, managing director of Forum Corporation, was in when her boss left suddenly.
She said: "I was emotionally devastated for weeks as I felt I had worked hard to develop trust and a solid working relationship and knew this person was investing in me as someone with high potential.
"I wasted too much time over two weeks with assumptions and panic as well as second-guessing."
Abrupt changes in leadership usually result in uncertainty among employees, but it is premature to fret about your job prospects or think about jumping ship until you get a clearer picture.
If you have a good working relationship with your boss, meet him or her to gather context for the departure. No matter how betrayed you feel, wish the person well and show support for his or her new move.
Don't let a momentary lapse of judgement or emotions ruin what could be a fulfilling, long-term relationship.
But even as you grapple with your own emotions, move on to more pragmatic matters that will affect your career.
Key issues to consider include how your manager's departure will affect your day-to-day work, how his or her workload will be covered, and whether your past performance and evaluations have been documented and acknowledged by stakeholders other than your boss.
Foo Chek Wee, HR director of Zalora, suggests that affected employees seek clarification to ensure that team goals and deliverables remain clear.
Ask for validation from your manager's boss on whether your current assignments and projects are still priorities.
Ms Stuckey added: "Don't stop working on projects or tasks you dislike and hope the new leader will not notice or care about them. This can backfire and demonstrate your lack of good judgment or commercial mindset."
Splitting the work
Now comes the tricky part.
When a manager vacates a role, it's normal that the responsibilities will be divided among staff qualified to perform them, so be prepared for it.
Ms Stuckey recommends that employees indicate what else they can take on for the short-term and know the implications of this - such as the extra hours worked - to you personally.
"Ensure that you put in writing the implications and specific period and the rationale for doing this … Organisations value team players and someone who is willing to provide additional expertise or hours during a transition, but this should be short term and within reason," she said.
Stepping up to the plate at a critical juncture shows maturity and leadership, which will reflect well on you when it comes to future appraisals or promotion opportunities.
But if you have absorbed a large part of the manager's workload for a prolonged duration, it is essential you are treated fairly.
Sanjay Modi, managing director, Monster.com (Asia-Pacific and the Middle East), said organisations should recognise such employees and reward them, especially if they want to retain talent.
"If the heavier workload carries on for a much longer period of time - and you are performing these duties well - then you are in a great position to request additional compensation, be it money or other perks," he said.
If your manager was also your advocate who helped you gain visibility in the organisation, there is the fear that you might lose out on some very important senior connections.
This was an issue Ms Stuckey faced previously when her mentor left.
She said: "I should have pushed for more exposure and networking to his peers and senior leaders as I was just counting on him to help me to the next level."
One way to get around this is to start tapping your current connections and cultivate such relationships on your own. If you are considered high-potential, there will be others out there willing to sponsor or groom you as your mentor, but you will need to reach out first.
Mr Foo added that another crucial part that all high-potential employees should not leave to chance is to ensure that their leadership capabilities and talent reviews have been documented and provided to HR or other members of management if applicable.
If this has not been done, you could request that the manager do this before he or she leaves, to ensure that you don't lose out or start from zero when it is performance appraisal time with your new boss.
When the position is finally filled, give the new boss the benefit of the doubt and withhold judgment. Take the initiative to help him or her out by offering to give whatever key information he or she may need.
Helping your new manager make the transition is a first step in building a good working relationship and will be greatly appreciated.
Ms Stuckey said: "Everyone moves on for specific career reasons. Accept this and be prepared to step in to show support for the new manager."
Even if you think the new manager is nowhere as fantastic as your previous one, he or she is will be the one appraising you from now on, so stop longing for days past.
Things may not be the way they were before, but if you keep doing good work and have a positive mindset, there's no reason why your future will be any less bright.