Four Tips for Processing a Colleague’s Departure

People naturally form bonds with colleagues at work. A team of people who work together will spend a lot of time with one another every day, and an individual’s departure from that team can have ripple effects on one’s morale and relationship with work.

Recently, a colleague and friend of mine decided to transition from Atomic to another organization. As a relatively recent graduate, I had not experienced this before, and I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with work. Here are my four tips on processing a colleague’s departure.

1. Celebrate Their Contributions

Transitions and change can be hard to handle. Take the remaining time you have left with the colleague to celebrate the work they have done and the contributions they have made to the organization. This can be a great opportunity for some after-work socializing. In my instance, we chose to have a happy hour party on my colleague’s last day.

This can also be a good time for a thoughtful memento. I decided to give my colleague a framed version of the value recognitions they received during their tenure at Atomic. I had my other teammates sign the matte of the frame. This was inexpensive and easy to do, but I hope it will be meaningful for them.

2. Stay in Touch

Recognizing that you won’t be working together anymore doesn’t have to mean you’ll never talk again. My colleague included their personal email in the announcement of their departure. Upon receipt of that email, I replied with my own personal email address and phone number. Keeping the door open can be helpful in maintaining a friendship.

Alternatively, Slack has a free tier plan, so it’s possible to create a workspace for informal group usage. A group message or channel in Slack could decrease individual pressure to keep the conversation going, while still providing a way to stay in touch. Regardless of the medium you choose, having a way to stay in touch can help make the goodbye feel less daunting.

3. Lean on Other Colleagues

I was lucky enough to hear the news directly from my manager, in front of the departing colleague. This brought the transition out into the open for everyone to know. During the announcement, my manager spoke highly of the departing colleague and made it clear there was no resentment of this decision from the company.

I found support in talking to my other colleagues about this transition. In particular, I talked to more senior people who validated my feelings and offered their own advice. Leaning on teammates who were going through the same change was helpful for me. It also gave me the opportunity to form new relationships to replace the one I was losing.

4. Take Some Time Away from Work

Finally, when there’s a lot of emotion at work, it’s important to take time away to gain perspective. Set boundaries to help yourself recognize that work isn’t everything, and realize that you have many other connections outside of work. Grounding myself in family and friends during this time was helpful for me.

I hope these four tips will help you if you’re also adjusting to a colleague’s departure. I’d also love to hear any other tips on how you’ve worked through a similar transition.