Graceful Endings

The way we end relationships speaks volumes about our interpersonal skills.

You and I will deal with numerous endings throughout our careers.  The average baby boomer held 10.8 jobs between the ages of 18 and 42 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Most of us will leave one employer in favor of another 12 times before we reach retirement age.  Other types of endings occur when companies decide to walk away from a client.  As a society we tend to avoid terminating relationships; we prolong the inevitable to avoid change and pain.  Sometimes we put it off because we’re not ready to take responsibility for the role we played in a less than successful stint.  As a result, we tend not to do endings well.

Shifting the way we view this type of change opens us up to learning opportunities – personally and organizationally.  Many companies conduct exit interviews and post mortems for that very reason.  Although these take place frequently not many participants give them the forethought required to make them the learning event they were intended to be.

Start with the end in mind.

The best thing any of us can impart at the point of moving on is to relate what we have gained as a result of the engagement.  Whether we are leaving a client or an employer, the relationship began when two parties undertook to do some form of work together that could not be accomplished alone.  Take the time to show the good that you were a part of before you cite what was lacking.  Nothing in life is ever all good or all bad.  A balanced approach may garner lasting friendships that will outlive the corporate contract.

If you are feeling wronged, think carefully about how you will portray yourself or your company.  Nothing is more transparent than a vengeful spirit.  Sharing feelings of victimhood is seldom good for the career and tends to be overlooked as bitter comments meant to harm others.  If you are putting your thoughts in writing be sure that you are speaking only for yourself and are not taking risks with libel.  This should not be a problem if you stick to facts that can be corroborated or proven.

Take pride in productive, positive endings and you’ll set an example that your community, coworkers, and family can be proud of.


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