There have been shakeups at the top of many major companies lately. Top-level turnover happens, but when it happens at your company, how are you supposed to react? Such sudden changes from leaders tend to make the rest of the company very nervous, and usually, employees are left wondering whether it’s time to head for the exit.
"When a slew of senior executives leave your organization, you should be on a high alert," says Richard Orbé-Austin, cofounder of Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting, LLP in New York City. Senior executives have access to information you don’t, such as the company’s financial status, its standing in the market, the goings-on in board meetings, and so on. "Clearly, some major change is happening—now is the time to act, and not just wait around."
Still, you don’t necessarily need to panic or act rashly. Take a breath and follow this three-step approach:
Before you jump to conclusions about why leaders are leaving, figure out what is actually happening, recommends Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That in New York City. "Clearly transition is in the cards, but it could be attributed to a number of things, not necessarily bad. Sometimes business is underperforming structurally, and sometimes it is simply in need of a management change."
One way to determine whether to stay or go is to look at what has happened in similar situations in your industry, says Cheryl Palmer, owner of Call to Career in Silver Spring, Maryland. "Based on the information that you have, does it seem likely that the fact that top leaders have been let go will lead to a positive transformation within the company? Or are the problems too systemic for their departure to keep the ship from going under?"
Just because some leaders have bailed doesn’t necessarily mean you should go, too. If your company has been laboring with difficult or ill-aligned executives, an exodus could be a good thing, and you may be better off sticking around to take advantage of the possibilities that are left, says Houston-based career expert Rick Gillis. "If all the ‘bad guys’ left, hang on and try to move yourself up. This may be an opportunity for you, no matter your position."
On the other hand, if the leaders you most admire are moving on, that may signal that the best people are jumping ship, says Mikaela Kiner, founder of Seattle-based uniquelyHR. "Think about how the remaining execs may shape the future. Is this a company you’re still proud to be part of? Do you still have an advocate at the top?"
"If you start hearing questions like, ‘What if this department didn’t exist?’ then the writing is on the wall and you should dust off your resume," Kiner says.
And even if you’re sure that there’s growth potential for you under the new leadership team, you never know what changes might be in store at your employer. So Tyler Parris, a career coach based in Bellevue, Washington, says he always tells his clients to have a plan B, and a plan C and D, even when things seem to be going well. "That way, if you feel like the sand is shifting beneath your feet, you can take the shortest path to where you need to go next."
Bottom line, says Orbé-Austin, "Activate your network, and begin exploring other options, knowing that the average job search takes four to six months."
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.