What to Do When Your IT Director Leaves Unexpectedly

Bill Onion

it director leaves.pngSo, your IT Director turned in their notice today. Maybe they are moving to another company, or maybe they won the lottery; either way, you now have a crucial role to fill. So, what should you do first? Then what? What about that big project? First, and most importantly: don’t panic. This isn’t the first or last time something like this will happen. Here are our tips for surviving this transition.

The Awkward Conversations

It can be uncomfortable to talk about, but the first real decision you have to make is whether or not your IT Director gets to stay for two weeks or if today is their last day. A lot of this will depend on the relationship you have with them and the nature of their departure, as well as company policy. This is a very big and very important decision, and there's no right or wrong answer - but a decision has to be made immediately.

Another tough decision is figuring out when to announce the departure to the rest of the company. Best practice says to be completely open about what is transpiring, because once one person knows, everyone will know. Some companies choose to wait until the end of the two weeks, but we recommend announcing the news on the day that they make their decision. It’s always better to be in control of the information up front.  


With those decisions out of the way, you need to make sure you have all of your documentation in place. If you don’t currently use a ticketing system, the outgoing IT Director needs to document all open tasks. They also need to document all of their daily tasks, whether they are open issues or not.

Next thing to document is their credentials for every business critical system they have access to, if you don’t already have them. This should be part of an overall Disaster Recovery plan, assuming you have one. If not, now is a good time to get started on that.

Finally, work together to document a transition plan. Be sure to fill in very specific plans of who needs to be involved when, including the HR Department. Keep in mind that there will be security concerns with someone at this level leaving the company, so do your due diligence up front to make sure you have everything covered.


Now it’s time to gather your support team to make sure that this transition goes as smoothly as possible. First, see if your outgoing IT Director is open to some kind of extended, part-time support role. This will be on a case-by-case basis, but it can only help to have them as a resource going forward.

Next, pause all of the projects they are currently working on, if you can. That way you can focus on the transition, fill in gaps in documentation, and find some stopgap support for those projects.

You will most likely want to reach out to a good recruiting company to help find someone to fill the IT Director role, unless, of course, you have someone internally who is qualified for the position. Pull up your succession plan and see who was slotted to take the IT Director spot. By the way, if you don’t have a succession plan, now is a good time to change that.

What if you don’t have an internal resource to utilize, the recruiting company is still looking for a qualified candidate, and you need help now? Consider talking to your IT partners to see if they have someone who can serve as a stopgap solution. We recently had a team member backfill a position for a former client when their IT Director had to abruptly leave. It’s not a permanent solution, but it’s a viable way to keep everything moving while you search for a new IT Director.

The Exit

Finally, work as hard as you can to make this as graceful an exit as possible. People leave companies, but it’s not unheard of for someone to come back as well. Try not to burn any unnecessary bridges, because you never know when you may cross paths with someone again, especially in the tech industry.

Are you in panic mode because a key IT staffer just turned in their notice? Take a deep breath, then contact our team.

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