Last week was a tough week for me because I found one of my favorite colleagues is leaving the company soon. Well, it should be corrected as that the company decided to let him go. It was a huge shock to everyone because he has been a core member of the company who laid the foundation and knows all the ins and outs of the business. He is full of humor and positive attitude so everybody liked him as well.
It was especially sad news to me as he was super supportive of me since I started working at the company. He was always very excited whenever I showed him my work and advocated me and my work even when I thought I was not making as much as contributions I wished to make to the company yet. It was natural that his news became personal to me. It is not like some guy was there and is leaving. I was about to lose a good colleague, friend, and mentor at the same time. I wanted to know how the decision was made and how he feels about this.
I talked to my manager and we had a long conversation. Although it must have been tough for him as well, he tried his best to explain things carefully and respectfully. Like in any other conversation I have with him, he provided me with lots of insights and life lessons that I want to keep in mind. So, here, I am trying to write some of them down here before they go faint so I don’t forget.
Never let a bad situation go to waste.
“I know it is hard. It is tough for everyone. There have been continuous discussions and doubts about if it is a right decision to make. It is a decision that is difficult for us to make and for every team member to accept. However, once we conclude that is the right way for the organization to go, we have to deal with the biting part of it. Whenever I encounter this kind of bad situations, I remind myself of what my father said: “Don’t let a bad situation go waste.” A bad situation can happen to everyone. I sometimes have to let somebody go. I sometimes can get fired. I sometimes try something and fail. But what can I do with those situations that you can’t control? The only thing I can do is to try to learn as much as I can. You can’t change the situation but you can learn as much as you want. We need to keep telling ourselves: ‘What can I learn from this? How would I deal with this if I were in the situation?’ ”
Employment is like a finger in water.
“All the work he did for the company is so important that we can’t think of the company without him. I understand you are worried about the gap we will face once he leaves. However, employment is like a finger in water. Imagine you put your finger in water and take it out. What happens? The water moves and fills the gap immediately. It is like that. There is always someone to fill the position. You can also think the same thing when you leave the company. Don’t worry too much about the gap you will make and focus on making whatever decision is best for you.”
We are all adults. We can distinguish personal feelings from profession matters in an adult way.
“He is great and everybody likes him. It is natural that this news feels personal to everyone to some extent. However, we also understand business is business and we need to distinguish our personal feelings from professional matters. The organization needs to do what it needs to do. However, even though we make a decision that is best for the business, we can still care about him with our genuine interest. I ask him how he is doing, how he is feeling, and what we can do for him to make his next move easier. He also understands the decision and tries his best to make sure all the transition is smooth. That is how we deal with this situation as adults. So, don’t feel bad too much and don’t be afraid of talking to him. He will feel when you approach him genuinely and when you really care about him.”
The conversation with him relieved me and made me feel much better. However, even with his insightful advice, I know it will take some time for me to accept this for real and get used to it. It may also be attributed to the fact that I am still young and have not faced this kind of situations yet. It may also be due to the difference between American and Korean work culture. However, I still wish I don’t lose empathy and face it with indifference even if my professional career grows.