Today’s Story Of Change is an anonymous article written to express the importance of goodbyes, both in life and in work… especially in the context of redundancy and change situations. It is a moving account of one person’s experience of the changing world of work.
And my favourite quote?
“In the recent 10 years, I’ve experienced change at work like never before. Mergers and acquisitions, buying and selling, cost cutting. All these things leading to what seems, at times, a constant chase for the ‘right model’. Many times. And with little success.”
Most of us can probably relate to this. It makes me think of Einstein’s famous words… “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
These words are startlingly relevant today for many in the world of work where there is an urgent need for new ways of thinking to address challenges. New ways of thinking underpinned by new questions. New ways of thinking based on the interconnectivity of all of us.
Here’s the article in full.
“Before you start wondering about the relevance of this article to you let me assure you it is about work and people at work.
But first, life. Recently, I lost a close member of the family. Saying goodbye wasn’t an option as he was in a different country and deteriorated quite quickly. This left a hole inside and some unresolved questions. I would have dearly liked to share final words and properly say goodbye to him. The need to close the loop wasn’t an option though in this case.
The event made me think about goodbyes and how they are handled in life and work. At work, we say goodbye all the time. People come and go. Some choose to leave. Some are being made to leave and about those, I’d like to share my thoughts.
In the recent 10 years, I’ve experienced change at work like never before. Mergers and acquisitions, buying and selling, cost cutting. All these things leading to what seems, at times, a constant chase for the ‘right model’. Many times. And with little success.
Change is a part of business and work. No-one is immune to it. Yet as it becomes core to corporate life, managing the emotional side of it is more crucial than ever.
If you are lucky, you may not have experienced what I’m about to share but I’ll be surprised if what I say shocks many of you. In the last 2 years, people around me have faded away after being made redundant. ‘Faded’ means made to disappear, vanish, pooof – gone! How can this be? How can a professional, key, intelligent person just vanish? The answer is simple. The CEO/ Executive team etc stop talking to and responding to them. Their exit is not communicated. It’s like the person had never existed. I’ve seen those being made to leave upset by it, making sure they leave a tidy desk behind, with the need to show they have meant something. Most of them are too hurt to even say a word and vanish into thin air.
We can talk about the emotional intelligence aspects of situations like these and the inability of some executives to address the personal experience of those exiting. Their inability also to justify what’s happening and deal with unanswered questions for fear of exposing themselves. But for me what’s front of mind is the inability of those leaving to say goodbye. That’s the reason I chose to write this piece in the first place.
Seeing leaders manage by ignoring, creates an unbearable emotional gap, not giving others the permission (in the emotional sense) to say goodbye and provide the much needed hug and hopeful send-off.
Needless to say, this is not just about redundancies, it’s about emotionally handling change even when the person is still around but has had a change of scope, moved, demoted etc.
Saying goodbye is part of life and there is real power and great privilege to say a decent farewell to loved ones and to colleagues at work who have become part of your life even for a while. By doing this, leaders can show that not only can they lead well but they can manage the discomfort that is coupled with making some tough calls and letting people go. Perhaps it will do even more. Facing the person impacted directly rather than through a bunch of papers, may also make them stop and think twice. Perhaps there is a better way to manage business than this.
And now back to life. Saying goodbye to your loved ones is never easy yet can be extremely empowering if we choose to do so. This is what makes us who we are.”