Recently, one of our managers was recruited and left our offices to work for a competitor. It was a great career advancement opportunity and I wanted to be supportive of this individual. At the same time, I was sad to see him leave and I knew that my team had mixed emotions as well. As a leader, I grappled with how to say goodbye and model appropriate behavior for the rest of my team. I reflected on my departure from previous positions and how those were handled by my former supervisors. Here are some of the lessons that I have learned along the way.
- Honor the feelings of loss. Change is difficult for everyone. When someone leaves, it is okay to be sad. Let employees know that it is okay to be sad and share your own sense of loss.
- Be supportive of the decision. The decision has been made and whether we agree or not, they are leaving. When an employee tells you that they are leaving and they are crying, then you know it wasn’t an easy decision. That is the time when they need your genuine empathy and concern.
- Recognize their contributions. Each team member contributes something to the success of the organization. If you can’t think of anything to recognize then ask their supervisor and peers about their contributions. Acknowledge their contributions to the rest of the team.
- Be gracious. Identify and negotiate specific tasks or projects that the employee can finish up before they leave. If they get done before their proposed end date, then give them the option of using vacation days rather than sitting around the office.
- Say goodbye. Closure is healthy. It helps the employee leave and the rest of the team move on. I still have the farewell gifts from each job I left and they are special to me. A kind farewell keeps the door open to possibilities. You never know when your paths may cross again in the future.
We all want to be treated with respect. As leaders, our employees are watching how we handle transitions. Our behavior is a barometer for how future employees will be treated. We can bolster their confidence in us by how we say goodbye as well as hello.