my boss is dragging her feet on hiring my replacement

A reader writes:

Earlier this week, I told my boss I would be leaving/moving to the state my fiance lives in at the end of our season in May. She knows we’re getting married, and I’m a terrible liar, so despite planning to wait until mid-April to tell her (in my field, 6 weeks or so is standard for giving notice), I couldn’t avoid telling her when she asked. Then she freaked out about plans for next season now being off-track because she had thought, that since I hadn’t said anything sooner, she’d “have me” for another season, etc, etc. I’m not worried about being let go earlier or treated poorly, but what I am worried about is what came out next: that she might not hire someone until July or August.

This is why I wasn’t going to tell her until mid-April, because her habit is to resist believing change is coming and to procrastinate on hiring a new person. (The woman before me gave her notice at about this same point and left in May and I wasn’t hired until July, and what had piled up was kind of a mess when I started; similar story the time before that.) I would LOVE to have the opportunity to help train the new person, rather than just leave how-to’s and my phone number. In addition, my boss has a lot more on her plate now than when I started (and we don’t have an intern now either), so there’s no way she’ll have time to keep the day-to-day stuff of my job running in the perhaps months between my departure and a new person’s arrival, not to mention her time spent getting the new person acclimated to our programs.

Is there anything I can do or say to help get the hiring process moving? I know at some point it’s out of my control, but I think she’s stuck in the “OMG WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!?!?!” phase. I’m already updating my job description so that won’t be what she’s waiting on. My fiance doesn’t understand why I care so much about trying to help her out because she hasn’t been a good boss but I’d like to leave this neat and tidy, and a months-long lag time between employees seems messy.

Honestly, it’s not your problem. And even if it were (which it’s not), you just don’t have the authority or control over the situation to make it work the way you want it to work.

Of course you’re right that it’s ridiculous and irresponsible to stall on hiring someone when if she moved faster, she could have a shorter vacancy, less work piling up, and maybe time for you to train the person. But this isn’t about what’s sensible or obvious; it’s about what your boss is willing to do. And you can’t control that. Moreover, you don’t need to. Because, again, it’s not your problem.

Your obligation is solely to give as much notice as you’re comfortable giving, to leave your realm as orderly as possible, and to leave behind as much documentation as you can for the next person.

That’s it. Your obligation is not to somehow push your boss into acting differently than she seems inclined to act. And it’s not to protect her from the consequences of her own actions.

Now, you can certainly point out to her what’s in the best interests of the organization and your eventual replacement. That means that you can say something like, “If the new person starts by May, I can help train them before I leave. To do that, I think we’d need to start advertising this week or next, with the goals of conducting interviews by X. If you’d like, I can update the job description and help with the initial resume screening so that we’re able to keep the process moving relatively quickly.”

But from there, it’s up to her. She’ll either act or she won’t. And it’s not your problem if she doesn’t, not any more than it’s your problem if she, say, doesn’t turn in a report to her own manager on time. This is not your job. It is hers, and you need to let her do it the way she sees fit — even if that way is terrible.

I totally understand feeling some personal responsibility for ensuring that your role is handled well, even after you’re gone — that’s common in conscientious people. But the reality is that what you can and should do is limited, because you are leaving. Get your area in good order and leave extensive documentation, then move on with a clear conscience. There’s no feasible way to do anything else.

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