My Boss is Leaving: How Can I best Help her Transition Out? – Ask an Admin


Ask an Admin was created by Office Dynamics to help administrative professionals with their problems through the help of their peers. We don’t always have an answer to each individuals problem but we know some of you might. Please read the question and comment below.

Alice S. asks:

My beloved manager/leader/friend is leaving our company at the end of July.  Her departure is going to be shocking to her peers and direct reports.  She is well-loved, unique in her approach and will be missed.  My question is, how can I help make her transition smooth?  What things should I focus on?  Processes to create or follow?  I’m anticipating a lot of stress around this for our company once they find out next week, and want to help her prepare for it.  I almost don’t know where to begin. In over 20 years of experience, this is a first for me.

Please share your thoughts and advice in the comments below.


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12 thoughts on “My Boss is Leaving: How Can I best Help her Transition Out? – Ask an Admin”

  1. I have gone through this experience twice and feel that everything was covered in the above excellent comments! I would agree that being that bridge between making it easier for the manager as well as for providing assurance to the persons that she has left everyone in a strong position to move forward is key. Grace under pressure always rules the day!

  2. Thank you everyone for your excellent ideas and advice! I knew I could count on this group to understand and provide advice. With your input, I am making a list and will connect with my leader to make sure we’ve covered all bases and she has a great transition; as well as her people.

  3. I love this question because it means you must have a very special relationship and want to take care of your boss at a very emotional time! I recently experienced this and the most helpful thing I stated with was to make a ‘to do’ list of every single action that she would be required to do to prepare/transition out. Everything from moving pieces of work to someone else, inquiring about her life insurance, pension and benefits to updating her hotel and airline accounts to a new email address. I’m happy to help with more ideas if you’d like to message me!

  4. I have been in your shoes. There are a lot of emotions to deal with; hers, yours, other employees. There are tasks to think about along with how to emotionally handle her departure. Most executives don’t really want to make a big deal about their departure but I think it is best that even if they don’t want a lot of fanfare they should agree to some kind of simple farewell send off. It is more for the employees and helps people to have closure and move on.

    Tasks to consider :
    – are there any personal files on her computer that need to be copied or removed? (check your IT security policy)
    – can you copy needed appointments or events such as birthday reminders to a personal calendar for her?
    – Would she like a copy of her contacts moved over to her personal account or in a spreadsheet for reference?
    – Help with the communication plan for her exit
    – Schedule some 1×1 time for the two of you. Ask her to do a performance review for your file before she leaves and if she can write you a letter of recommendation.

    Hopefully you will always stay in touch. I supported the same executive for 12 years and we still keep in touch and he will always be a mentor and friend.

  5. I just went through this a few months ago with my beloved boss as well. One thing that he was very appreciative of was that I created a drop box and placed all materials that would be useful to him in his new position. This included his profile, bios, photos, presentations, CV, contacts, personal items as well. Once I new who his new assistant was I shared the drop box with her and this also helped her to prepare for his arrival. As far as transitioning, we made sure to leave time available on his schedule so that colleagues could come talk to him prior to his departure. This was particularly important in our situation because our organization has been going through some change. Hope this is helpful.

  6. Alice – we experienced a similar transition just about a year ago. Once a final work date was established, we worked backwards on the calendar, blocking out time as “unavailable”, in order to allow her time to focus on unfinished tasks, as well as to start weaning others away from one-on-one meetings. As part of that process, we created a master listing of open projects, with a plan to transition those that needed to be assigned to others after her departure. One of the more difficult areas to manage was the shock and surprise of peers that followed the announcement. We crafted a script of sorts to allow us to respond to questions with a standard message, which helped to damper the rumor mill a bit. I appreciate that you want to ease the process for her, and believe me, there will be tears, and all of the parts of the normal grieving process (anger, disbelief, etc). It’s definitely not an easy circumstance, but with planning, it can be a little easier, work-wise. Best wishes to you and your boss!

  7. Your boss sounds like a wonderful woman, so I expect that her primary concern in this moment will be for the stability and comfort of the team she has built and respects. She no doubt still cares about the work she’s leaving in their hands, having dedicated so much of her time to it until now.

    With that in mind, I’d say that the best thing you can do to make this easy for her is to commit your energy to making everything easy for the rest of her team. Ask her which areas she’s concerned about and whether there is anything you can document into handover notes for her. Tell her that you understand that the impact of her departure is likely to be on her mind, and that you’re there to help with that. If you can help her demonstrate to her team that it’s all being taken care of efficiently, they will be less stressed and she will have a much more pleasant departure period, and leave in the satisfied knowledge that all of her hard work for the last however-many years is still in great hands.

    I’m not sure what your industry is but perhaps there are key clients she’ll be handing over – maybe you know those people and you can write a brief dossier on each of them, take it to your meeting with her and show her the start you’ve made. The specifics of what you can do really depends on her job and how involved the rest of her peers and direct reports are – but in my view the general theory would definitely be that the best way you can help her is by prioritising the team.

  8. Hi Alice,

    I went through a very similar situation about two years ago. You are right to anticipate a lot of stress from others in the company when the announcement is made. This is indeed difficult news, but it is important to remain as optimistic as you can that the transition will be smooth. Many folks may feel their job security will be affected and that will lead to a period of unsettlement. It will be helpful for you and her to be on the same message when letting people know of her departure.
    Here are a few things my boss and I did to prepare:
    1. Block off time on her calendar to handle the onslaught of calls/visit when the announcement comes. We actually had our phones go directly to voicemail initially (and I had to close my office door and turn out the lights a few times! LOL). Schedule 1:1 time with each of her direct reports and/or team.
    2. If you are in a physical location acting as gatekeeper, you will have those drop by unannounced. Be respectful and suggest scheduling time for them with her.
    3. Begin going through files – physical and electronic, this she may have to do herself, and sort by: Keep for interim or new hire to position; Keep for historical purposes; Discard (not relevant to the job); Recycle (others may find info useful); Remove – what she will take with her.
    4. Keep a running list of things that come to mind. You will be surprised what you think about that will come in handy later on.
    5. Identify a date/time/location to celebrate her. Maybe have folks create a memory book for her. At this point the shock of the news will have passed and things will become routine again for most folks.

    One final piece of advice – allow yourself time to mourn the loss of this professional relationship, especially if you two were very close.

    I hope this helps.
    Patty R.

  9. I’ve been through this a couple of times and believe you can be a real leader for the company. You will want to balance your loyalty to the company and to this great leader. To do so, exhibit positivity and grace at all times. When others say something like OMG what will we do? Respond with gratitude for your former leader’s strengths and confidence in everyone’s ability to carry on and succeed. A couple of examples:

    “Yes, we will miss her dearly. I’m so glad we had an opportunity to grow under her leadership. She is leaving us in good shape and empowered us to succeed. She’s been great to work with.”

    “I truly wish her well. I’ve been a big fan of her unique approach and feel we really came together as a team under her leadership. I think we’ve grown so much – I feel really grateful she has given us a good foundation to carry on and succeed.”

    By constantly acknowledging her contributions, and at the same time expressing a confidence and positive outlook for the future, you can help keep people focused on the future without her and the team’s ability to survive and thrive and succeed.

    It takes consistency and an unwavering desire to stay away from grousing, complaining, fearing, or crying. Good luck.

  10. I have listed a couple of thoughts below:
    I would be to sit with her and discuss her tasks/projects/etc and who will need to take over each task. Do this prior to her announcement, that way you are ready to roll. Once she has made her announcement, create meeting invites for her to discuss said tasks with the person(s) that will be taking over the task (even if it is only during the transition period to fill her role).
    Block off time for her to pass on any HR files, purge anything that is not needed, pack documents that may not be needed 1st hand but must be saved for a certain timeframe, etc.
    Get a copy of all of her contacts in her outlook that you don’t have in yours, this way you have them should someone else need them after her departure.

    I hope this gets you started.

  11. Ivory JohnBaptiste

    A few things that come to mind when someone is leaving the company that I found helpful are as follows:
    1. Schedule a meeting with the boss
    2. Review current projects and other important tasks
    3. Review any reports, due dates or upcoming deadlines
    4. What are upcoming events that were previously scheduled, that may have to be possibly cancelled or reassigned
    5. Ask what needs immediate assistance for which you could take responsibility until the new person comes on board

  12. Melissa Hunter

    my first impulse was to wonder why it’s your responsibility to make her departure easier. I understand the thought behind that, but I don’t know that you should be taking it on. If there are going to be issues, your HR department should be following up. Also, if she is leaving, she should have a transition plan in place for her replacement.

    My only suggestion would be to organize a farewell lunch for your department, and maybe a cake and get together for a bigger group if you have a budget. We recently has someone retire who had been with the company for a long time, and we had a cake and get together for all in our location to say goodbye.

    I would also make sure you are clear with any contacts she may have that are vital to keep, and that you know what’s going on with any projects in which she is involved. Take lots of notes.

    Our division is going to be going through the same thing at the end of the summer. My manager has done very little to transition her replacement, as the company’s expectation is that I am going to be there to support the new person. Not sure that is my career plan.

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