Saying Goodbye to a Favorite Coworker – Colleague, Farewell!
When a favored coworker accepts another opportunity, it’s often a blow for the company they leave behind.
Their empty desk presents its own operational challenges—commencing the search for suitable candidates, deciding who will handle their duties during the search, possibly even rewriting the job description. But guess what! When someone leaves their place of employment, it affects not only the office as a whole, but the individuals there as well.
Why Employees Leave
Picture this—you enjoy your full-time employment, and have learned a great deal from one manager in particular.
This manager (let’s call him Rob) is everything you want in a coworker—exceptionally knowledgeable in his field, asserting unmatched work experience and a great sense of humor, is clear in his requests, and warm without being overbearing or talking too much. He sees the big picture and keeps his projects as well as his direct reports on track with little difficulty. His presentations are compelling, interesting, and carefully planned. He listens. He is also patient, kind, and always dressed appropriately. He even brings in extra produce from his abundant garden.
In short, he’s a real pro. He also is (ok, was) my favorite manager.
When I received news that Rob would be leaving, I was surprised, and not in a good way. My hands even flew to my cheeks, Home Alone-style. Usually, when someone is unhappy at their job it’s fairly obvious. But what if the colleague in question enjoys their work, is not only popular within the company but knows their job inside and out, is the go-to person and one of the most knowledgeable in the department, and is leaving for a similar job at another great company?
Problems with HR? Doubtful. Differences in business practices? Probably not. A poor annual review? Absolutely not. Romantic relationship gone awry? Also no. Few growth opportunities? Perhaps. A raise? I don’t know, but I sure hope so.
So what was the deciding factor? A significantly shorter commute. Finally, the kicker . . . he left for a rival organization!
If I’m being honest with myself, it makes perfect sense. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer an extra hour of free time daily:
You can’t argue with the math. So as a professional myself, I respected his decision. But it still stung. After seven years of working with him, I felt like my buddy had punched me in the stomach and then told me he was moving across the country.
Why did you leave your last job?
What to Do Before a Colleague Leaves
- The faster you “download” their “brain dump," the better. Not everyone is as well-organized as Rob, who had prepared lists of tasks and practices in advance. So grab your pen and sit with them, stat!
- Host a farewell get-together. It doesn’t have to be a fancy picture cake—cookies and coffee are great, too. What matters is that everyone who wants to can say goodbye in a congenial setting, together.
- Wish them well! If you really care about your colleague, don't let them get away without a special goodbye. It can mean a lot to someone. If you know you will be away (on vacation, for example, as I was) during their farewell party, be sure to say your goodbyes ahead of time.
Positive Sides to a Coworker Leaving
- If you stay in constant communication with your colleague and you are trustworthy, you will likely make many more business contacts, who may prove useful in the future.
- Why not connect through Facebook? You may not have wanted to “friend” one of your managers when you worked on the same floor, but what’s to stop you now that you don't work together directly?
- When all else fails, you can at least enjoy the sweets at the going away reception!
Steps to Saying Goodbye to a Coworker
- Think about the projects you worked on together. If you have a similar project in the works, ask them for tips about how to proceed before they leave for their new job.
- Step back. Enjoy their company for as long as they are around, but accept that you soon won’t be able to have an occasional hallway chat about nothing in particular. So start practicing the “no hallway chat” rule as soon as possible.
- Keep it real. Remember that they are not breaking up with you, they are charging forward toward a better life for themselves . . . which is something everyone should shoot for.
- Stay warm. Avoid bitterness and don’t crack mean jokes. Saying things like “The best ones always leave us!” and “Yeah, she made enough messes, now someone else can clean them up!” even in jest is obnoxious and probably not true. Even simply referencing something like “the seven-year itch” is tasteless and tacky.
- Do commiserate with other coworkers you know will be missing the person in question. Sigh for a while, then get back to work. That’s what you are getting paid for, after all. Don’t put your own job in jeopardy because someone else is leaving!
- Join up through LinkedIn! If you are not already one of each other’s contacts, make it happen. This is exactly what LinkedIn is for—keeping in touch with the best workers you know.
When Someone Leaves for a Rival Company
What if a coworker leaves for a rival company? Even a “friendly” rivalry is still a rivalry. Or is it?
Don’t call your colleague a traitor or defector, or attempt to make them feel guilty. You will look foolish in front of your remaining coworkers, and will turn an amicable situation into a disagreeable one.
The Final Question
So now that I’ve come to peace with Rob leaving, there’s just one more question to answer: who will share their extra cucumbers?
Have you ever let a coworker leave without saying goodbye?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.