What, you’re leaving!

charlie-brown-waving-goodbye“I have a new job.” Often the worst words you can hear when a valued team member tells you they are moving to a different department, school or institution.  Suddenly you, and your team, are facing a transition that impacts on-going work and the on-going culture of your team.  Managing departures is as important as managing arrivals.

William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions, reminds leaders to start with the endings. When a colleague leaves you need to help your team understand what is changing, acknowledge what they are losing and take time to recognize the past and the future. Doing this successfully can build trust and a stronger team.

Teammates may be happy for their colleague and their new opportunity but personally they will be losing a relationship and a part of their day-to-day routine or structure. You can help by:

  • accepting their feelings and acknowledging that you also will miss the relationship
  • identifying what routines will and will not be changing after their colleague leaves
  • clarifying how they will have an opportunity to redefine or reinvent work processes

Another overlooked, and often avoided, topic for leaders is the importance of a ceremony or symbolic event to both recognize the past work and relationships and to “officially” gain closure so people can move forward. I just attended a small going away ceremony for a co-worker and it was clear that her teammates were getting as much from the celebration as she was. It was their opportunity to talk about successful projects, past challenges and what they will carry forward even after she departs. I counsel leaders to plan events when people leave, even if they say “I don’t want any attention.” It is actually a milestone for the rest of the team and will help your team move through transition.

While it is not easy to replace a team member it is an opportunity to reinforce the culture of your work group and highlight your commitment to their success.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

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