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I work in a small office where it is common to overhear parts of conversations my coworkers are having in a meeting or over the phone.

Recently, I overheard my direct supervisor on a phone conversation with one of our suppliers. The supplier said they had heard that he (my supervisor) was retiring. I then heard my supervisor say that he was planning on retiring in a few weeks.

My supervisor has made no remark to me of his plans yet. My position is directly linked to his; I would describe it as Assistant/Junior in capacity while he is a Director/Senior Manager. I am concerned that once he retires my position may become obsolete or be replaced when a new manager is hired.

Given the potential short time frame for the retirement I would like to know where my fate with company overall lies, but I do not want to be known as an eavesdropper or come off as somehow dishonest.

What would be the best approach in this case? I see two major options; 1) Go to my supervisor with the information I overheard, be honest, and ask about any plans for my future, or 2) Wait for my supervisor to approach me with the news.

From a personal perspective, I am hurt that I had to overhear this information rather than my supervisor openly disclosing to me when the plans were first made.

Update 04/04/2016:

I ended up going with Option 1. Everything has turned out fine. The reason I was not told about it is because he is only "retiring" for company status reasons and will continue working for another year. I was probably going to learn the information independently.

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    Dont be hurt. This is a time of transition for your boss and he probably has other things on his mind, as change is rarely something easy for anyone. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 29 '16 at 17:41
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    He's probably getting his ducks in a row. Don't be hurt. – Richard U Mar 29 '16 at 18:25
  • I wouldn't necessarily take the news of your bosses retirement as a negative thing. With change also comes opportunity... is there any chance you could step in to fill his vacated position? This could be a chance for promotion. – DanK Mar 30 '16 at 16:37
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Unfortunately we can't really tell you what the best approach is because it will be highly dependent on your personal relationship with the man.

Personally, I would go up to him and admit that you've overheard the conversation, and are sorry to hear that you're no longer going to be working together.

If he doesn't bring up the implications for your position then simply do it yourself:

Perhaps in the next couple of days we could sit down and discuss the implications which your retirement might have on my own position within the company.

Be prepared for anything, including having to update your resume and start looking for a new job, but also that he might not have a straight answer for you ("wait and see what happens)

  • @Skooba - how did it go? Us Workplace users always get to hear about people's problems, but rarely about how it all worked out. A lot of people will appreciate an update on what happened :-) – AndreiROM Apr 4 '16 at 18:56
  • Everything turned out okay. I added and update to the question. – Skooba Apr 4 '16 at 19:00
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Don't panic.

Your best bet, really, is option 1:

Go to my supervisor with the information I overheard, be honest, and ask about any plans for my future.

You don't have to tell where you heard it, just that you heard about it and you were curious of what were the plans for you (unless, off course, he asks where you heard it).

Be prepared for a change, and be ready to adapt.

I am hurt that I had to overhear this information rather than my supervisor openly disclosing to me when the plans were first made.

That's life, and that's the workplace. It might not have been intentional, he might have reasons for it. In any case, you won't certainly change him. But keep in mind that when it'll be your turn to retire, will you do the same? You'll have the chance to pass it on the next generation ;)

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It doesn't make sense to me to approach your supervisor, admit you overheard a private conversation, then ask what his plans are for you after he's left.

Chances are, his plans don't include you at all.

As for being hurt, managers often have to manage when & how information is released. For all you know, his management told him not to tell you.

As for what you should do next, it never hurts to update your resume "just in case", but on the other hand it's entirely possible that you are being considered to replace him.

In short, pretend you didn't hear him and act accordingly.

It may all turn out well in the end.

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    I actually favor this one. Plans may still be speculative, subject to change, and nonpublic for those very good reasons. I strongly dislike feeding the rumor mill, so my inclination would be to assume that you will be told when and if it matters. – keshlam Mar 29 '16 at 17:50
  • This would be the polite & socially acceptable response to almost every occurrence of eavesdropping. Since the OP's job is involved, however, this specific case would be an exception. If the retirement was a huge secret, I doubt the supervisor would be talking about it in an area where he could be heard. I would be apologetic, ask about it, but be prepared for any possible response from the supervisor, including "I don't want to talk about it..." – mcknz Mar 29 '16 at 20:21
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    You don't admit you overheard a phone call. You heard a rumor. – David Hammen Mar 30 '16 at 1:20
  • From the OP, the privacy ot the overheard call seems questionable. – GreenMatt Mar 30 '16 at 13:55
  • @DavidHammen I made sure to say "heard a rumor" as those are quite notorious things in my industry! – Skooba Apr 4 '16 at 19:01

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