Help! My Main Supporter Has Left My Company

Last Updated Oct 15, 2009 2:12 PM EDT

Dear Ron,
My biggest supporter at my firm has unexpectedly left, and he was one of the main reasons I joined this company in the first place. What should I do now?
This is an increasingly common situation with so many people being laid off and so many departments being reorganized. One of the first things to do is ascertain exactly why your champion left the company--was it poor performance, a particular stand he took, did he simply get a better offer to go elsewhere that your current firm couldn't match, or what?

You need to have a good grasp on the specific issues that caused your supporter's departure in order to figure out whether those issues implicate you and/or diminish perceptions of your contribution. If your champion was "encouraged" to leave, you'll have to work hard to differentiate yourself from the issues presented by your champion. And you may be in for a rough go for a time as your leadership seeks to test you and decide just how valuable you are on your own. You may even be punished and given less responsibility for a time, so you should prepare yourself to prove your value in new ways. And over time, you'll need to identify and find new champions at your company.

Of course, if your primary supporter was valued and left of his own accord, there may be some effort to keep you, so you need to be able to leverage that by finding the right role for yourself and securing new supporters.

One former client of mine, a middle manager at a technology company who was on an accelerated track, found himself in difficult straits when his champion left under dubious circumstances. He was given more low-value projects and wound up drifting for a year, but he persisted in doing good work and cultivating relationships with new champions. After about a year, he came out of the doghouse, and he's continued to do well there and moved up the ladder.

I've had clients in the past who were surprised when a major supporter of theirs left and they suddenly they found themselves twisting in the wind. They made the mistake of thinking their work would simply stand on its own, and often this caused them to respond too slowly to the change in circumstances. Don't let that happen to you.

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  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.

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