In the last four working days, I have had four staff members give notice of their pending departure.  Whew.  While I wish all of them well in their new roles, one can’t help but be affected by the announcements from those with whom we work so closely.  

Whenever there are staff exits, it creates a swirl of emotions:  sadness, or even anger, mixed with the hope that their new position will create joy for them.  Often people who are staying feel overwhelmed as they consider all the knowledge they must quickly absorb in order to prepare for the double duty that inevitably lies ahead.  And all this happens at precisely the time that the extra tasks of searching/interviewing/hiring/training suddenly appear on the to-do list.

At times like this, I try to heed the great advice from author William Bridges in his book Managing Transitions.  Bridges says that change is external, but transition is internal.  Change happens at once (the person leaves), but transition happens over time and in three stages.  The first stage of transition is the ending and it is appropriate to grieve for what is lost — camaraderie, assistance, knowledge, humor, familiarity with how things work.  Secondly comes the interval stage — where things are in limbo.  There may be an interim period without a replacement, but even when the new hire begins there is still a stage where everyone is figuring things out and waiting for the new person’s work and temperament to fit into the culture.  Only after time can the third stage of beginnings actually occur and people share in the comfort of knowing how things work.  

The same cycle of transition that my remaining staff will go through as their colleagues depart begins now for another group on our campus.  Today is campus move-in for our new athletes.  Our freshmen experience the change of being in college today, but will continue their transition for weeks to come; often secretly grieving for home and life as a revered senior, then stumbling through the process of figuring out social norms and college expectations, before finally (hopefully) falling in love with college and wondering where the years went.  Mixed in between the bravado and sure hopes for a conference championship is a natural cycle of ending, sadness, insecurity, unfamiliarity and doubt.

At times of transition, hopefully it will help to remember that it is a natural part of the process to also be a little sad about what has transpired.  Pause for a moment and grieve as part of your transition, even as you undoubtedly will rejoice in beginnings when they come too.

— beth triplett


I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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