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Team-Building: Saying Goodbye Can Bring Us Together
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Team-Building: Saying Goodbye Can Bring Us Together - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Saying Goodbye Can Bring Us Together

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Saying Goodbye Can Bring Us Together

Many offices have a tradition of throwing a little goodbye lunch for a departing team member. If the person leaving is high enough on the org chart, or if he or she is especially well-liked, sometimes the goodbye is bigger, involving more than just the relevant department. And sometimes the colleague resists a party, not wanting to make a big deal of the departure.

There’s something going on besides an office tradition, and it goes beyond the usual attraction for any diversion in the workplace, especially any diversion involving cake. Someone’s leaving, and that changes things. Personal and professional dynamics, for better or worse, will be affected. The person leaving for greener pastures or a can’t-pass opportunity is beginning something new, but he or she is also creating a something new for those remaining.

When important people leave, especially if several leave at the same time or in rapid succession, they may create something of a downer, whether they’re fleeing a rough situation or simply embracing new possibilities. For this reason, the farewell party is more than just cake and punch in the conference room, and it’s as much for the stayers as for the leavers, the way a wedding is for the families or a funeral is for the survivors.

The going-away greeting card, signed by everyone with perhaps a small monetary contribution for a gift card, is almost a formalized declaration of mutual appreciation. Perhaps that’s making a bit much of what can be a collection of empty pleasantries, but take a look. Among the jokes and quick “We’ll miss you” statements, there may be some genuine sentiment. And the potluck party serves a similar purpose. Yes, it expresses to the person leaving that he or she will be missed. But it also affirms among the team remaining that these people have similar values, and that this departing teammate represents some of those values: we’ll miss you individually, and we’ll miss you together.

It’s fair to think we’re waxing overly nostalgic or sentimental about an everyday situation not truly deserving of such reflection. On the other hand, we’ve all seen the friendly farewell become teary, as someone volunteers to utter a few words of thanks and well wishes, and then the honoree responds with words of his or her own. Sometimes, participants don’t even realize how valued someone is until someone’s voice starts quavering and someone obviously struggles to hold back sniffles.

When people respond emotionally to something in a professional sphere, it’s worth thinking about. Why are people crying? If the team staying in place is sad, what does it say about the person leaving and what does it say about their attitudes about the work they do together? Most importantly, how can we take that sentiment and turn it into something productive and positive?

As much as a disruption as a departure usually is, it can also be the impetus for bringing people together, at the very least affirming shared values about the work, the workplace, or the teammates who bring it to life.


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Team-Building: Saying Goodbye Can Bring Us Together - Executive Leadership Articles

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