The Challenge: I think too many people slip away into the night from their places of work without fellow employees taking a meaningful moment to really see and thank each other. This disappearing act usually happens when people voluntarily quit or are asked to leave for one reason or another. Formal long-term retirements from work usually have some reasonable process of goodbye. However, we seem to collectively shrug our shoulders in most other circumstances. It’s not unusual to hear a conversation similar to this: “Oh, it’s your last day? Well good luck. Sorry, I have to run to my next meeting. Let’s have coffee some day, stay in touch.” Or another conversation: “What happened to so and so? Really? That’s too bad. Did you see ‘Game of Thrones’ on Sunday?”
Story: I was fascinated by a report about 88-year-old, Tinney Davidson, who was leaving her home to move into assisted living. For 12 years, she had waved and smiled out of her window or front porch to high school students on their way to school. So last week, after finding out about the planned move, nearly 400 hundred high school students carrying signs and flowers walked together to Davidson’s home, stood on her lawn and blew her a collective kiss as she tearfully looked on. According to the CBC story, the kids carried colorful signs adorned with hearts. “We love you Mrs. Davidson,” one sign read. “Thank you for being awesome.” It’s a very touching statement of human beings seeing and acknowledging each other. Why do you think the students responded that way? All Davidson did was smile and wave. Hmm.
What We Can Take Away:
- We need to continuously remind ourselves that it is deeply human to want to be “seen.” With that understanding, it is important to take the time to really see others too. If they are in your life for however long, you’re both “there.”
- If you are a formal leader, YOU are responsible for how people leave with dignity and kindness, and acknowledging their mark however small or quiet. Stupid and/outdated HR and IT policies of taking system access away, walking people out of the building for security reasons, etc. is NO EXCUSE for “ghosting” the person leaving. The same principle applies if YOU are a teammate. It’s a copout to think it’s not your “job”. Being a kind human is in your job description!
- If you are the person leaving, did you genuinely and regularly “smile and wave” while you participated. Did you really care about others? Could they tell? Why would they want to say goodbye? Will they carry a sign saying “you are awesome” and blow you a kiss?
Think Big, Start Small, Act Now
One Millennial View: To answer your question above, I think Tinney Davidson received the attention she did because she made a kind connection with so many students. It’s tough to leave somewhere, and often awkward. I’m as big of a fan of the Irish goodbye as anyone, but I think it’s important to share our exit with others as well. We can also extend the same to anyone leaving.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis