Watching a boss walk is a dangerous pastime, but it's not necessarily callous to try and optimise the outcome for yourself.
If you work in banking for long enough, you will certainly have colleagues, mentors and friends who are let go. Although the event may be anticipated, the timing will generally catch you off guard. The office environment will turn weird, anticipatory and stressful.
Senior management will closet themselves in conference rooms. Everyone else will scurry around whispering names to each other and hoping that they aren't next. Rumours will start. People will leave the building and may or may not say good bye. You may feel that the situation is unjust.
If you are lucky, you will not be one of the ones let go. If you are less fortunate, it could be your boss. You may be losing a mentor, protector and friend. Regardless of whether or not you liked or respected him, it will be a trying time for him personally and for you professionally.
The challenge in such a highly emotional time is to keep your mind on your work. It is inevitable that you will want to talk to your friends and colleagues, but to the extent that you can, try to do this after work or during a quick lunch, rather than during the business day.
Your (new) boss will expect you to pitch in and get on with the job. It is not callous to do this. The holes that are left in an organisation when people leave quickly are unlikely to be filled or restructured immediately, if at all. The handover of responsibilities will probably be disorganised. You will need to do unfamiliar tasks so that all your firm's clients continue to be well served.
Try to view the new situation as an opportunity for you, rather than dwelling on the past. Your new boss will have people that he knows and trusts, and may not know much about your area. You don't want him to bring in 'his' people; you need to find a way to become one of his confidants too, without being overly obvious or fawning. Don't be bitter that you know more about your area than he does. Make yourself indispensable.
How can you do this? First of all, you need to make him look good, look like he knows what he is doing. Remember he also has a boss who he is trying to impress.
Secondly, create a good impression by understanding and knowing everything that goes on within your area or team. Rather than spontaneously bringing him coffee, educate him on what the team does, what you are doing, why things are done in a certain way. Be open to his ideas on how to change things. Make suggestions if you can on things that can be tweaked to be even better. He will reward competence, enthusiasm and work ethic.
At the same time, resist the temptation to stigmatise those who have left. It is an experience that no one wants to go through, but many of us will. Being mature, professional and sensitive to the needs of those around you will help you to maintain relationships with both former and current colleagues, and will enable you to emerge better rather than worse off from a difficult situation.
Anneke de Boer is a former managing director of Morgan Stanley's fixed income and debt capital markets business in London. She retired in 2006.