These days, people change jobs, on average,12 times during the course of their career. Still, given the depth of commitment we give to our place of employment, (sometimes feeling it’s more like a family than a company) and the time and energy we invest, it’s not too big a surprise that the announcement that someone is moving on can cause quite a stir. If you’ve recently announced that you’re leaving a job, even if you were anticipating some upheaval, your co-workers’ reactions to the news might surprise you. Here are some common responses.
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1. The kind friend.
Some folks will react the way one might expect they would. They’ll be a little sad, maybe disappointed, but they’ll be understanding and kind, maybe even happy for you. You may start to feel the relationship start to switch from work-friend to personal-friend. Suddenly, you find your co-worker is talking more about their life, maybe being a bit more authentic in general – breaking down those walls that working together for years has built up. You might exchange contact information and decide to stay in touch. Keep these connections going. Maintaining a strong network of professional peers could be one of the best things for your career going forward. Plus, it’s wonderful to come away from a job with some solid friendships that carry forward into the next phase of your life.
Some people are likely to get pretty upset when you announce you’re moving on. They may snap a little, or downright lash out at you, or just give you a good dose of cold shoulder until your final day. They’re angry, and they resent that you’re leaving. Maybe your departure means more work for them, or they kind of wish they could leave themselves and are a little jealous. No matter the reason, a fair percentage of your co-workers (even ones who once felt like real friends) will not take kindly to the news and they’ll find a way to let you know how they feel. Try not to take it personally; they’re just thinking about how your news impacts them.
3. The abandoned.
If you thought the angry and resentful co-worker was tough to take, wait until you come in contact with someone who has had their abandonment issues stirred up by the news of your departure. They might not just be cold and aloof, they might be downright cruel. The idea is, they want to abandon you before you can abandon them. If they shove you away, they don’t have to face their feelings that you’ve left them high and dry. They might believe, falsely, that you should stay with the company and be just as committed as they are, maybe even more so. Know that this reaction isn’t really about you, it isn’t personal. It’s just how some people cope – it’s their way of protecting themselves from difficult feelings.
4. The total change.
This is one of the toughest pills to swallow when you leave a job. Some people, who once treated you well, complimented your work, and sang your praises, may suddenly act as though they couldn’t care less that you’re leaving. They make you feel that it won’t matter much at all, to them personally or for the company. This response will likely come from a boss or manager, and it can leave you wondering if they really ever valued you at all. Did they only compliment your work because they wanted something from you? After you announce you’re leaving a job, some people will go from treating you like a highly valued asset to an unimportant cog almost overnight, and it can be really startling. Maybe you don’t want to work for someone who’s kindness and generosity of spirit is so easily relinquished anyway? Take their harsh treatment with a grain of salt and look forward to getting away from them soon.
5. Looking through you.
Similar to the total change response, some co-workers will simply stop paying any attention to you at all once you announce you’re leaving. Why make small talk at the copy machine with someone who’s about to leave anyway? It’s tough, but some of the people that you considered real friends may suddenly start treating you like you’re almost invisible, looking right through you at meetings, or when they pass you in the hall. It’s good to know who your real friends are, and separate them from the people who just engaged because it benefited them in some way. Try not to give these folks, or their treatment of you, too much thought.
It’s tough to leave a job. But some of the connections that you forged with co-workers during your time together could last a lifetime. Once you announce that you’re leaving, you’ll start to get a better sense of which people will carry forward and which won’t. Stay strong and remember that you haven’t done anything wrong. And, try not to take the tough responses too personally – it’s really not about you.
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