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Why is Saying Goodbye So Hard?

When professionals take their development seriously, consciously seeking challenges and new growth opportunities, there may come a time when the only way to keep growing is to take a new position. Most often when an executive leaves his/her current position, it is in pursuit of another role, typically one representing something better, different, or more challenging. This choice is never an easy one and a difficult process unfolds after making the decision to leave a position—the process of saying goodbye. Even C-suite executives, professionals whose careers are built on their savvy and ability to take decisive action, struggle when they decide to resign from their companies. Faced with this scenario, I am often asked the question, “I am leaving my company; what do I say to my manager/boss/Board now?”

My one strong piece of advice is always to be honest, clear, transparent, and decisive about the change. Never try using one opportunity to play off another; it is both unethical and creates bad karma. If you do this, you have alerted your current employer that you are willing to look at other opportunities, which is often viewed as being disloyal. You also set the tone that you are not in it for the long term. I cannot stress in a more resounding way that none of this jockeying bodes well for you under any circumstances.

When you have that often difficult resignation meeting, be clear that you have decided to leave in the affirmative. Emphasize the positive and talk about how the company has benefited you, but mention that it’s time to move on. Offer to help during the transition and afterwards. Don’t be negative, there’s no point—you’re leaving and you want to leave on good terms. If you need to write yourself a script (I have done this myself!), then do it.

The key here is to leave with dignity and grace. You never (repeat never) want to burn bridges. Before you leave, take the time to say goodbye to colleagues and to let them know that you are moving on to a new position and offer to stay in touch. Some of my closest colleagues today are people with whom I have worked in the past. Saying goodbye is never easy even for the most resilient executive, but with an open, decisive, and positive message it can be very productive. Good luck!


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