Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Your Boss Was Fired. Now What?

How to stop panicking and recover quickly.

Key points

  • It's natural to panic if your boss is fired, but being prepared can help you stay calm.
  • Keep your professional network engaged and current so you don't rely on one person for your career.
  • Maintain a current resume so that you don't have to scramble if the worst is about to happen.
Michael Soledad/Unsplash
Source: Michael Soledad/Unsplash

Most of the time, we’re concerned when we have a manager that we don’t like. We worry that we’ll be overlooked, undervalued, or both. It can be stressful and overwhelming, and frankly, most of us would be a little relieved if a manager we didn’t like moved on to a new role. But what about when you like your boss, and they get fired? Losing a manager that you like can be stressful in a completely different way: you’ve lost someone who was a mentor, who helped you develop your career and taught you important skills. They were both an ally and a leader and now they’re gone. So, now what?

How to stay confident and keep cool when your boss is fired.

Don’t panic. There are two common reactions when someone we report to loses their job. The first is often, “Am I next?” It may make you feel guilty, but in fact, it’s a natural reaction. And it’s not surprising: if you learn that the head of your team has lost their job, it’s possible the rest of you are facing the same fate. Sometimes, people lose their jobs because of major companywide layoffs. Sometimes, a single individual will be fired for a cause such as poor performance. And there are a dozen other scenarios as well, all of which create uncertainty. So, the first reaction is one of self-preservation, and it’s natural.

That said, you should try to stay calm. If the worst is going to happen, it’s beyond your control—and probably was beyond the control of your boss. That can be cold comfort at the moment, but it’s important to recognize when unfortunate events happen for no reason of our own making. On the other hand, if it’s just your boss and a boss you like, that brings up the other response that’s typical: “What happened? Why?” If you like your boss, it means you respect them, trust their judgment, or even model certain areas of your life on theirs. So unsurprisingly, it’s unnerving to see that person no longer thriving, at least in that specific workplace.

Lean on your network. If your boss is fired, you can suddenly feel as if you lost not only your current professional leverage but your future career prospects as well. And the longer you’ve worked for one person, the more devastating it can be if they are no longer there. But the truth is, we should always be building and nurturing a broad network at every stage of our careers. No one person is likely to make or break your career—and that’s a good thing. Ideally, you have a network in place already. While you want to be discreet and not run out and announce your boss’s fate to others, you can commit to finding other resources for professional advice generally, for perspective on the job market (in case you do need to look around), or just as a general reminder that your former boss is not your only ally. If you suddenly realize that your network is pretty small, then it’s definitely time to build that resource. According to a Department of Labor report, the average length of time at any one job is 4.3 years for men and 3.9 years for women; in other words, we can all expect to change jobs multiple times throughout our careers.

ABC: Always be current. Yes, the famous line is “ABC: always be closing,” but maybe even more important is to always be current on your professional development “go bag.” This doesn’t mean you have to be actively looking for a new job. It does mean that you have active and updated resources available if you do need to start an employment search. No matter how much you like your boss or your employer, keep your network active and your resume updated. You should know recruiters (or actually, they should know you). When you leave a job, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch with colleagues and clients and other relationships that you developed while there.

If your boss was fired, it means a new chapter for both of you.

First, your boss may have left the workplace, but that doesn’t mean that they leave your network. Initially, you may want to give them some space and time to adjust. But stay in touch and make a sincere effort to express how much you’ve learned from them and hope to keep a relationship. At the extreme, they may end up in a new position to hire you elsewhere if you’re interested. But at the very least, former managers (and colleagues generally) can continue to expand your network as they move on and make new connections they can share with you. Keeping strong professional relationships intact will always require effort: people move on, and at some point, you will, too. Being prepared will make every transition easier.

More from Robert Kovach Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today