‘There must be around ten people who have left the company lately‘, complained one of my students this week, as he went on to admit that he found it hard.
As I asked questions, his colleague joined the conversation and I could feel the turmoil, questioning and well, sadness at the state of affairs.
Although we all agreed that employee movement is a regular occurrence at work, saying good-bye to a well-appreciated team-mate and fellow employee is never easy.
Memories of shared jokes, frustrations and achievements accomplished together add to the bittersweet nature of the event. On the one hand, you’re happy for the colleague who is embarking on a new professional adventure, yet on the other hand, their absence will be sorely missed.
New employees will come in with fresh ideas, different points of view and alternate ways to do things. A period of transition may affect the morale and productivity of the team.
Back home, I was working on translating a guide to grief. I couldn’t help but notice the parallels. I thought I’d share a few thoughts on navigating the post-departure phase of a friend and colleague.
Departures, much like death, are a fact of life. Each employee, as each person revolving around a lost family member, had their own personal relationship with the co-worker, so each employee will therefore react differently to the loss. It’s important and normal to feel sad, just like in any grieving process.
Commemorating the event is a humane and essential way to mark the start of a new phase of life for the departing employee, but also the employees who are remaining at the job.
- Take time to share ideas on how to best symbolize the departure of the employee. This will permit a variety of points of view that will reflect the different ways the departing colleague left their mark at their workplace.
- Allow people who wish to make a special homage or write a special message in a collective card to do it so they can express their feelings in a personal way.
- Remind colleagues that it’s normal and okay to talk about the person who has left in the days and weeks that follow. Obviously, the essential thing is that it doesn’t affect their work.
- Lastly, no-one knows what challenges a fellow employee is dealing with both at home and at work. A departure can be the straw that breaks the camels back, that triggers existential questioning and perhaps even bouts of anxiety and depression. In that case, it is important to ask the RH department for advice on employee help services.
In case you were wondering if I know what I’m talking about, I myself had to say good-by to one of my favourite colleagues ever just last week over dinner and drinks. It was sad, but I’m happy for her considering she is going to take on a wonderful new opportunity in a new city with her beau. I’ll miss her for sure, but I’m already on the look out for new colleagues to develop close relationships with – not to replace her (no-one can do that!) – but just to enhance the workplace feels.
A departure needn’t disrupt workplace harmony and well-being. It can be an event that ushers in new possibilities and horizons.
How have you coped with the departure of a colleague friend? What worked best for you? Share it in the Comments section below!
Cheers to you Charlie, and keep learning!