When it comes to the day-to-day specifics of your work life, there is perhaps no greater influence than your boss. But lately, he’s been coming in well-dressed and leaving for long lunches. Or maybe she’s been a little distant. Could your boss be planning an exit? And if she quits, what will happen to you?
There are definite telltale signs when someone is looking for a job, says workplace consultant Amy Cooper Hakim, PhD, founder of The Cooper Strategic Group, Inc. They’re the same as when colleagues are looking for a job. Perhaps they’re spending more time behind closed doors. They come to the office dressed appropriately for an interview and are taking a few more long lunches than usual. Perhaps they’re jumpy when someone comes into the office unexpectedly and try to hide their computer screen because they’re looking at job listings. “Those are all some of the warning signs,” she says.
Beyond those signs, some behavior of people who have decided to move on can affect you and your job performance, says Stacy Lindenberg, owner of Talent Seed Consulting. Your supervisor may be less available for meetings or less invested in the projects they’re overseeing. That can have an impact on how you do your job, she says.
“Things that they normally would do are pushed off. If they’re not available when they need you, that’s a problem,” she says. In addition, once your supervisor does leave, it can mean a big transition for you as you help hold down the fort while a replacement is found, then adapt to the work style of a new manager, she says.
If you suspect that your boss is getting ready to quit, there are some things you can do to both prep for the transition and safeguard your standing to the best of your ability.
Your next steps depend on whether you know for certain that your supervisor is leaving, and what kind of relationship you have with them, Lindenberg says. You don’t want to be seen as taking advantage of the situation—especially if you’re wrong about whether your boss is actually leaving. If you have the kind of relationship with your supervisor where they would share their plans, you might even strategize with them about next steps.
“So, think about the relationships you have and keep those in mind,” she says. You don’t want to lose those relationships because you acted on a hunch, she says.
Think about Your Options
Next, look at the landscape and think about what your options are, says leadership expert Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging. There is the potential for great change ahead. Think about what you want to happen next, she says. Are you ready to move up? Are you still motivated to be with the company? Is there an opportunity for you ahead? These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself, she says. Once you have a vision for your next goal, you can begin to formulate a plan.
Start Documenting Your Contributions
Now is a good time for you to begin to document your achievements and accomplishments, if you haven’t already, Hakim says. Focus on the positive impact you’ve made and the skills you’ve developed. Make sure your resume is updated, as well as your LinkedIn profile, so that if you are interested in applying for a promotion at this company or finding another job, you’ve got your own documentation in order.
Schedule A Check-In
If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, Fowler suggests having a check-in meeting to review your performance. Even if it’s not time for your performance review, it’s appropriate to schedule time to review your strengths, weaknesses, and goals. This may also give your supervisor an opportunity to share their plans, she says. At the very least, it’s an opportunity to refresh your supervisor on your contributions and keep you front-of-mind in case they are in a position to recommend you as a replacement.
Do Relationship Upkeep
Even if you have a great relationship with your departing supervisor, it’s time to start reaching out to others in the company and strengthening those relationships, Hakim says. Of course, relationship building should always be a priority, but now is a good time to check in with some of your colleagues and contacts. Depending on what happens after your supervisor leaves, you may need to call on those relationships to champion your next move or advise you about what to do next, she says.