Shawn Price

Saying Goodbye

July 31, 2019

“Can we talk for a minute.” Here it is. I have usually seen this coming for weeks, if not months. I’ve done what I can to clear up any questions or issues. I’ve often coached to get to the root cause of the issue or dissatisfaction. Every now and then it’s a lever I have some level of control over. Often it’s not.

Each time I’ve heard “Can we talk for a minute”, I’ve known what’s coming next. Whether over Slack or in person after a meeting, there’s something in the tone or timing that gives it away. Our team is about to become one member fewer.

I’ve been there. Whenever I’ve told my manager that I’m leaving there has been a range of emotions. As a manager who has said goodbye to many amazing team members over the years, I’ve developed a playbook of sorts.

“Thank you.” Giving thanks with authenticity puts everyone at ease. Every team member has put their unique stamp on an organization, team, and project. I acknowledge the dent they’ve made during their tenure.

“What can I do to change your mind?” People leave a role for any number of reasons. One of those is that a team member feels something isn’t working and that nothing can change it. In my experience, there is often more room for change than many think possible. It’s important to understand the root cause of any dissatisfaction. This allows me as a manager to grow, for the team to grow, and for the organization to grow. There’s rarely a time when someone does change their mind, but I have seen it happen.

“Congratulations.” I know that new opportunities are often filled with excitement. Change is good. Let’s celebrate that.

“Here’s what the next few weeks will look like.” This is the most important part. Explaining in detail what will happen next and when it will happen goes a long way in lowering any anxiety. When and where to return equipment. Who will take care of the exit-interview and what does that even look like. I try to spend the right amount of time here so there is very clear agreement and alignment on the next steps.

“This is what I’ll need from you.” Every team member has their own specific domain knowledge. If they haven’t already, they need to document it. There are likely also issues to complete or code reviews to wrap up. I like to work together to agree on the best use of time.

“What can I do to ensure your remaining days on this team are memorable?” More than anything else, people will always will miss their team. It’s surprising the little things which can make all the difference. I like to dig and find a few things that will leave an impact.

“I want you to know that I can offer to be your Engineering Manager for life.” This last item can raise some eyebrows. I love supporting individuals achieve their best and I like to do it as much as possible. I get my energy from helping individuals and teams uncover the ways in which they work well together. I give this offer for two reasons. First is that I know my experience can help my former team members in the future. Whether trying to decide a new career move or choose a volunteer opportunity. Whether negotiating compensation, or making sense of their options package. I also know how important it is to nurture personal and professional networks. It’s fun to reconnect with people whom I shared so much with and learn how their life has evolved.

As a team member I’ve had excellent, good, and not-so-good goodbye’s from my teams. For a leader, saying goodbye comes with the territory. Leading with empathy and support goes a long way towards ending things on a high note.

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