When your boss is a jerk and ends up leaving suddenly, it's a cause for celebration. Losing a great boss, on the other hand, can be a major blow, especially when you don't expect it. But while it's always hard to say goodbye to a strong manager, one of the most challenging situations you can be in as an employee is having your boss leave without knowing who the replacement will be. Here are some steps to take if this happens to you.

1. Don't panic

There's something naturally unsettling about change, and losing a boss no doubt falls into that category. Throw in an absent replacement, and it's an unquestionable recipe for self-doubt.

But rather than let yourself fall victim to it, convince yourself not to panic -- because there's really no need to. Sure, you might end up with an ogre of a boss who makes your life miserable, but there's no reason to assume that will happen. Similarly, losing your boss doesn't mean your job is now on the line. Quite the contrary: You might find that you're even more valuable now that your manager has moved on.

Man in suit carrying cardboard box out of an office

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Speak up

You probably have a number of concerns now that you're boss-less. Rather than keep them bottled up, sit down with your manager's old boss, or whoever the appropriate contact is at your company, and voice them. If the person in charge of replacing your boss is able to reassure you that only candidates with a similar background, outlook, and management style are being sought, that might set your mind at ease. Similarly, if you're hoping to have a say in identifying the right replacement, speak up about that as well. Employee input often plays a huge role in hiring decisions, so express your willingness to help any way you can.

3. Stay in touch

When your boss leaves, the best person to help you and your company find a new manager could end up being none other than -- wait for it -- your boss. That's why it pays to stay in touch with managers after they move on. Your old boss will be more than familiar with the role, and therefore might be in a position to recommend a suitable replacement, thereby expediting the hiring process and limiting the limbo period you and your colleagues get stuck in.

4. Seize the opportunity to take charge yourself

It's easy to let major projects crumble in the absence of a boss, but if you do the opposite, you'll be furthering your career in a very big way. While the rest of your team is reeling from your boss' departure, focus your energy on moving existing projects forward, even if that means stepping up and managing some of them yourself. It's a great way to show your company's higher-ups that you're a strong leader. And who knows: You might impress them so much that you're offered the chance to become the boss yourself.

Losing a terrific boss is hard, especially when there's no replacement in sight. Just remember that the situation is only temporary. Until it's resolved, the best you can do is focus on your own performance while doing your part to help keep up your team's morale.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.