This post began as a much shorter piece I wrote but decided it was worthy of expanding on and writing a bit more formally in my long format posts. If you’ve already read this on that blog then you can skim this and move on. If you are still here I want to share with you some thoughts on the concept of decisions, departures and responses.
I was faced recently with a few incidents where I was able to witness some hard decision making and some difficult choices by some good friends of mine. I was able to witness the difficulties and emotional struggles they had to face both with themselves and with the task of sharing with others. It was eye-opening and striking. I saw the courage it required and the personal turmoil they faced as well as the reactions they received from others. I was moved by the situation and struck with a realization which I feel compelled to share.
The Wrong Response
The immediate response I saw was a begging and a pleading for the person not to leave. There was an expression of deep sadness and deeper regret followed by a strong emphasis on forcing them to remain where they were. This response is absolutely, totally, and completely wrong. This places the focus on the person doing the begging. This demonstrates a completely selfish response. No longer do we care what is best for the person who has had to make the hard decision to leave but instead the focus is on how this departure affects them. How incredibly improper. The decision to leave is most often not taken lightly. Many hours of careful thought and hard emotional moments have been faced. These individuals have weighed their options and determined what they feel is the best path for their life. They are looking to grow, to improve and to make a better future for themselves and their family. This means sometimes the hard decision has to be made.
After reaching a conclusion they finally share their decision with those they would consider their friends, their family. If they are met with this immediate and overwhelming emotional plea to stay this puts an incredible sense of guilt and false obligations on them. They feel as though they are hurting someone else for making the decision they have spent so long deliberating over. What an incredible disservice. How completely inappropriate and selfish to imply this hard decision is wrong.
The Thoughtless Response
If I were to step even a bit further I’d dare to say this over-exaggerated begging and pleading is somewhat forced and almost an immediate thoughtless response. Again the focus is not correct. This does not show support or encouragement to the decision-maker and it most certainly does not come across as heartfelt. Lives changes, people change, goals and opportunities effect each person in unique and different ways. Each individual has a unique path to take and must choose the path most appropriate for their personal well-being and the well-being of their families. The false over-the-top emotional pleas to stay come across as disingenuous and lacking heart and support.
Of course I would be foolish to ignore the leaving and departing over hurt feelings, or personal wrongs. In those cases there is absolutely an opportunity to restore a trust in a community or job and to attempt to right a wrong. Never twist what I am saying out of context. I am referring to those instances when an individual has labored over a decision and chosen a path which differs from the community or the company where they currently reside. They make this decision not as a result of any wrongdoing but over a genuine belief they must make a change for their own personal and professional growth.
The Right Response
Finally I would like to share what I believe is the proper and right response. It’s quite simple and can be summed up in a single word. Appreciation. I’ve written on the topic of appreciation a number of times recently (here and here and others) and feel strongly that this is something almost every community, company, and organization would benefit from doing more often. Of course we will miss them when they go. Yes they will leave a void. Absolutely and without a doubt we thank them for their tremendous time of service. They have given their time and their energy and their life to a cause we share and their impact is often immeasurable. We should be genuine and profuse in our expression of appreciation! We should never, ever, slip into the forced, and faked begging them to not leave and guilt them for the decision they felt best for their personal life. We are blessed by the time we have shared and our friendship extends beyond a community, beyond an occupation. Friendships and families are anchored in much more than code, or work, or any other trivial shared interactions. These continue regardless. This is the heart of the matter. True friendships extend beyond these constraints.
We should always be sure they are not leaving under negative situations and ensure that they are doing what they want to do. That is our duty to them as a friend or even deeper a family member. Ultimately, we should care for them. We should hope for the best for them. We should encourage them to be successful. I would encourage you to believe that leaving is ok. When that inevitable time comes and a friend or family member make the hard decision they feel in their heart is best remember this - Genuine, heartfelt appreciation is the only necessary response.