A mass exodus was underway at the State Department on Thursday as the department’s entire senior level of management officials abruptly left positions they’d held for years.

It is unclear whether the senior foreign-service officers resigned in protest, as The Washington Post reported, or were asked to leave by the new administration, as CNN reported.

State Department officials traditionally submit their resignations at the beginning of every new administration as a sign of respect, but it is largely a symbolic gesture.

Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s undersecretary for management who has served as a foreign-service officer since 1973, resigned along with the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond, and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions.