General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

When are you taking over?

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I started a new job as a mid-level manager recently. My boss is the director. There are two other staff. We also have a board of directors and volunteers with the organization. My boss is an older woman who is of retirement age. My understanding is that she has retired several times but has chosen to go back to work. I have no idea what her intentions are for the long-term, and I believe it isn't my concern until she decides.

Since I started the job, five people have approached me to ask when I am taking over or when Boss plan to retire. I don't have an answer to those questions, and I find them not only to be intrusive but awkward. The implication is that I was hired to take Boss's job when she decides to retire. In fact, a couple of people have gone so far as to say that when they were hiring for my position, they chose the person they want to succeed Boss. I was not informed of this plan when I interviewed.

My attitude is that Boss will work as long as she finds meaning and purpose in it. I'm not making any assumptions that her retirement is imminent, and I'm certainly not making any plans in that direction. A concern I have is that people may be treating Boss as if she is on her way out, when she may not yet be ready to leave. In addition, even if Boss retires, I couldn't possibly assume I would be promoted to her job. I just started working there!

What's an appropriate response when people ask me about Boss's retirement or whether I'm going to take over? I've been leaning toward, "Oh, I don't have an answer for that. That's a question for Boss to answer."


I think you can honestly say that you are not privy to Boss's retirement plans and have not heard anything about you or for that matter anyone else taking over.  I'd also add that that the best person to ask about Boss's retirement plans would be Boss herself.

I think this is an excellent situation to play dumb. You don't know anything, nobody's told you anything, and they'll have to ask Boss/someone else if they want to know.

Even if you do have speculation and rumors that you've heard, or your own observations, officially, you know nothing and they'll have to talk to Boss.

If you adopt an "Oh, gosh, I couldn't possibly answer that question because I just don't know!" sort of tone with whatever you actually say, it can be relatively easy to brush people off without making them think there's something you aren't saying. You might have to repeat it a couple of times if anyone is particularly insistent, but it's the kind of phrase you can repeat a few times before anyone thinks it's weird.

"I'm not sure what you mean. There's been no discussions with me about my role changing. Do you know something I should know?"

"I truly don't know and it would be bad form for me to bring it up with boss. "


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