So, Someone Died. That Sucks. Who’s Their Replacement?

I was working crazy hours, 7 days a week, and was stressed beyond belief.  As a Program Manager for a multi-million dollar M&A that was losing team members to termination/reorganization left and right, my already small team was cut in half within a month of go-live.  Our backlog of work grew as fast as the bugs we needed to fix.  My compliance person quit and I was avoiding an auditor’s persistent calls.  Food didn’t seem appealing, sleep was a nice to have and my caffeine intake was immense.  Per the blood pressure machine at the airport, I was well into hypertension stage.

Then a family member, who’s also an executive, gave me great advice.

“Ask yourself, who’s gonna cry at your funeral?  Not your boss.  Not your boss’s boss.  Maybe a coworker or two.  Your boss will feel bad and may even offer to help your family.  But I guarantee that boss will have your replacement identified within 4 hours of knowing you’re dead.  You need to focus on those who are crying.”

These words came roaring back into my head recently during a meeting where half of the attendees I’d never met before.  At one point, the organizer said someone who had key information unexpectedly passed away.  Another attendee flatly said “That sucks.  Who’s their replacement?”

For a split second, everyone in the room processed what was just said.  How can this person be so cruel?  So insensitive?  Do they even have a heart?

Then it dawned on me; I need answers ASAP or we can’t move forward, so who IS the replacement?  What happens if I don’t get answers for a couple weeks?  What’s the impact?  I sure hope this person wrote stuff down.

I felt like an asshole and silently hoped the family was doing well given the unexpected loss.  But I still have a job to do.  I have expectations of me and I have expectations of my staff.  Life for me moves on.

What’s my point?  There’s a couple things.  One, be sure to be there and focus on those who’ll cry at our funeral.  Two, though co-workers will feel bad, they’ll quickly move on because they have a job to do.  You’re gone.  That sucks, but someone WILL replace you.

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