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I work at medium sized (say 50-100 employees) software industry company for about 2.5 years now, in Germany. We do not have a strict company hierarchy, so technically everyone can just go to anyone in the company and talk about projects/problems with everyone. We do have regular department meetings and I report our progress to our departments 'representative'.

About a year ago, my department leader told me that a colleague would soon stop working for the company and I shall take over his projects. Everything was clearly communicated, the transition went very smooth and professionally for everyone involved. I quickly learnt about the project very well and was able to make any requested changes easily. I did not leak the classified information that he would stop working for the company - I was just not surprised when it was communicated to everyone.

Now I am 99.9% sure that the same thing his happening again, this time with a different coworker, lets call him Bob. There is project X, which was Bob's project and I joined it about 6 months ago. It was made clear about 2 months ago, that I would now be managing project X, which means keeping track of the progress, but still also contributing code to the project. I realize that I am slowly and unofficially taking over project X, because Bob is leaving or (will be) terminated (soon).

There are several small indications of what is going on. The major indication is that it was recently discussed, that our project is behind schedule, which I could not understand, as progress was great and we clearly were far ahead of the schedule. I was puzzled by this, but then I realized, they must have had additional information, which they were referring to. It was that soon Bob will not be available for the project anymore. They already included Bob leaving the company (or being terminated) in their time schedule for project X. This proved to be true, because I accidentally found a file referring to Project X (publicly accessible within company network), in which I read that it was discussed in a meeting without me, that project X should be finished, while Bob is still with the company. This explains the tighter schedule, of which I had no idea. This file belongs to the person telling me that the project is late.

I have no hard feelings, I am just puzzled about this situation. I understand that it might be a good idea to keep secret the information about people (begin forced to be) leaving the company (for whatever reasons). However, why would I not be told to take over Bob's duties with a clear deadline, just as it happened before with the other coworker a year ago. For me, each day could be the day at which Bob does not show up to work anymore. How should I manage project X if I am not told about the 'real' deadline and the reasons for it?

I want to clarify this situation and deal with it professionally. Would it be more appropriate to talk about this with my team lead first? Or talk to Bob first (what if he doesn't know / realize what is going on? Talk to the guy who told me project X is behind in schedule and who left this file, indication that Bob soon will be gone? Talk to the CEO first (it would also be easy to talk to him directly)? The CEO must have given the order to everyone, not to talk about it. Or is the answer: The other people did not tell me for a reason - so do nothing, just go on as if I didn't know it.

Update

I rephrased all parts where I told that Bob resigned into something more generic: maybe he resigned, maybe he is being terminated (soon). Everything would make more sense to me, if Bob is not leaving, but is being terminated or that it is planned to terminate him soon.

  • 1
    My guess is that the "year ago" coworker quit, and both the coworker and management knew what was happening, but this time around "Bob" may be unaware of the process and management wants to keep it that way, or just feels it's inappropriate to tell you that secret and ask you to keep it. So they proceed with an "open secret" which you can surely guess, but which they never actually tell you. – Kate Gregory Jun 14 '17 at 12:08
  • My guess would be that Bob does not yet know he is leaving. – HLGEM Feb 19 '18 at 22:30
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Realistically it's not your problem. The reasons why you have not been told a deadline can be anything. It may be that you're colleague is going to be tasked with something else that may or may not eventuate because it is dependent on an outside contract, so management is unclear on what is happening themselves, but trying to prepare as best they can.

Or your colleague may be under investigation for something and they're waiting for findings one way or the other.

The other scenarios, termination or quitting you don't know, but again, it's managements problem to prepare for them, so either you will get informed when it is appropriate or not, it's a management call. You don't need to stress yourself over it, just keep doing your job and don't jump to conclusions or over analyse the situation, because there isn't much you can do.

The only thing that you can do is ask management point blank if you will be taking over all his duties on the project and see what information they volunteer.

3

Why do you think you need to talk to someone about it? Yes you have indications Bob is leaving and it is clear they are not sharing that with you. If they wanted to share that information with you they would have. Until someone officially tells the project schedule is different it is not different. You can do your job on Monday without knowing when or if Bob is leaving.

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    +1 The only reason you might need to talk to someone about it is if it is affecting your ability to do your job. For example, if there's some task that Bob is responsible for that no one else knows how to do, then you may need to arrange for someone else to learn the task. In that case, I would ask management only what you need to know, e.g. "Bob is the only one who knows how to do X. I think it would be a good idea to have Mary learn how, but that will delay our delivery by three days. What do you think?" – mhwombat Dec 12 '15 at 19:02
  • ...And incidentally, when management sees how tactfully you handle the situation, they are likely to give you more information in similar situations in future. – mhwombat Dec 12 '15 at 19:04
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I would say that your first port of call should be to chat to the project manager. It's clear that there's been discussions when you've not been present, and if you're taking on someone else's work, then they need to make you aware.

As to how to approach your PM, next time you have a meeting I'd ask "I've noticed that the schedule has changed dramatically lately. Is this due to Bob leaving?" It gives the PM a chance to explain why the schedule has changed, and it'll confirm what you know to be true "officially".

Then you can ask the PM what they expect your responsibilities to be in light of this. The one thing I would make CERTAIN I do, is get Bob to do an information handover. Where I work, a colleague left a while ago, and he was the only one who knew how a certain component of a system worked. So I'd say get all the info you can from Bob.

Your bosses sounds like they're not giving you the full information, and you should call them on that, but do it in a non-confrontational way if you can. If they still won't give you a straight answer, then I'd escalate beyond your PM as a last resort.

  • Thanks for the answer. While reading I realized it might not be Bob resigning, but rather Bob being terminated (soon). So this Idea about talking to Bob directly seems less appropriate than talking to simeone with higher authority seems like the correct choice. – user44952 Dec 12 '15 at 12:57

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