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Submitted by poncho_57 on


How do I gracefully take the reins from my boss? He is dying.  He has one or two months  left.  He will work until he passes.  I currently do about 50% of his work.  Recently, my boss's boss asked me to take over after he dies.  

My boss is well liked.  He is effective and ethical.  He is the best boss I have ever worked for.

I'm an individual contributor.  I've been a manager in the past.  I have used O3s.

Is there any special guidance for filling a position after someone passes?  What do I say when people ask me if I'm taking over the role?  

bug_girl's picture

That sounds incredibly difficult.  I am so sorry for the loss of your boss, and it has to be really conflicting to have a new opportunity open up for you in this way.

A lot of my advice would depend on how open your boss has been about his condition--because it's medical, you can't reveal it if he hasn't.

If he has been open about it, then I would focus on being honest and compassionate with everyone in the office--they are going to watch this play out in the workplace, and it will be traumatic for everyone.

Tell them exactly what you told us--he is a great boss, and will be missed.  And that you will do your best to carry on in his tradition.

I wish I had more advice, but just saying what's in my heart--even if it's "I don't know what's going to happen and I'm worried about that too"-- has worked well for me in unusual situations in the past.

timrutter's picture

Does your boss know that you have been annointed to take over his role? If the answer is 'yes', a thorough discussion of how your boss would like to start handing over the reins to you would be helpful. He is still your boss and gets to make tha calls.

However this plays out, this will be a tough period for you and the team. If you can start O3's now it will really help you support your people.


poncho_57's picture
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I am trying to keep working with him exactly as we did before.  I read somewhere that people in his position don't like to be asked about their health constantly.  I steer clear of asking.  He is open with others who ask.  We talk about it when he brings it up.

I've said what's in my heart so far.  For example: People have been sidling up to me all year.  They ask whether I am up to taking over when he steps down.  I tell them that I am not ready.  I also remind them that he hasn't communicated any plans to step down.

I will keep trying to be candid and compassionate with everyone in the office.  That is good advice.

poncho_57's picture
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Does your boss know that you have been annointed to take over his role?

I don't know if he knows.  I suspect that he doesn't want to promise anything to me until he is certain it will happen.  He doesn't like to do what Mike and Mark call the dangle. 

The discussion I had with his boss took place after hours and off site.  Nothing is in writing yet.  If my boss's boss wants to he can leave it like this for a while.  I'm doing a good portion of the work now.

I will increase my relationship building efforts with my team.  I like that idea.  It is proactive.  For now I will do peer updates.  I don't think I can do a classic O3 until they report to me.