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