I manage the logistics department of a global aeronautics engineering company. My job is intense—my whole team works like crazy when we are on deadline and relaxes a little bit when things aren’t so hot, which still means 50-hour workweeks. I think it is important for people to get a bit of a break because when we are on, we are 100% focused and we cannot make errors.
So I came in to work on Monday to find that my boss—who has been amazing—has been fired! No reason given. Enter a new boss, someone who was apparently hired to vastly increase our output. I am sick at heart at the unfairness of it all, and I have no idea why they let my boss go. He was smart and funny, really cared about us, ran a tight ship, and always made really good decisions. I want to call my former boss to find out what happened and to share how sad I am to see him go. Is this something I can do? I am so worried about my team.
I am so sad for you; it is terribly jarring to come in to work thinking it is business as usual only to find someone that important is simply gone.
You have no way of knowing why he was let go, so be careful of assumptions. The fact that your boss’s replacement is already in place leads me to believe it was all very carefully planned. Your company has probably just given no thought whatsoever to managing the human side of big change. That is pretty normal.
There is no law that says you can’t contact your old boss. There is no reason whatsoever not to maintain the relationship with someone who was obviously an excellent leader and someone you admire. You might ask him to be a mentor to you. He may be able to share what happened or he may not; either way, it’s possible he will have some tips to offer on managing your political landscape.
Be careful of rumors about why the new person was brought in. You don’t actually know what your new boss’s mandate is, or how he will execute on it. I understand that you are worried about your future—the brain, after all, hates uncertainty—but give yourself a break and try to relax until you know what is going on.
You can, however, prepare. Get your ducks in a row and update the job description, performance plans, scorecard, or output stats for each of your people so you are ready when the new boss asks for them. Be ready to make your case for the ebb and flow of work being critical to the work product.
Finally, try to manage yourself. Change is hard under the best of circumstances and it sounds like your company is scoring an epic fail on helping you and your team with this one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good leader for your people, providing them with perspective and reassurance until you all know more. You can also be a role model for staying open to possibility and the potential of new and better ways of doing things.
Breathe deeply and stay grounded.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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