Soon we will say goodbye to 2018. Every year, as we come close to the end of another cycle, we reflect on the events in our lives. Some goodbyes are more difficult than others. Has anyone really mastered the art of farewell?Throughout our professional careers, most of us have had changes, whether they were internal moves within an organization, changes to our team or even relocation. Whatever the reason, these changes mean sometimes we have to say goodbye to people who have become very close to us — people we interact with on a daily basis in meetings, on conference calls, or maybe just passing by at our workplace.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” That means we will all face many goodbyes. You’d think that the more mature you get, the better prepared you are to know when and how to say goodbye. There could be some truth to this, but I believe it’s never easy if you’re vested professionally and emotionally in a place, a role or the people around you.
I have the great fortune to work for a global company that has given me the opportunity to travel around the world, and my job has led me to move eight times. All of the moves have signified wonderful opportunities, and I’ve enjoyed them, but with every move I’ve known there eventually would be a goodbye. Two of these have been particularly difficult.
The first was at the beginning of my career. The company had made an acquisition in France, and I was assigned to work on the merger. It was a challenging project, but it was also professionally rewarding, and living in Paris was amazing! Finally we turned the corner. Employees and clients were integrated, processes were in place, and the two merged operations were starting to function as one.
I was soon relocated to the United States. My last day was tough. As I walked out of our Orly operation, I turned around to see all the windows in the building open. The employees hung out waving American flags. It was a warm way to wish me adieu on my journey back home.
The second tough move was at the midpoint of my career. I was in Minneapolis, and my responsibilities had increased considerably. I was managing a group of people, and it was a great learning experience because I realized how important it is to have a cohesive team. It was in this role that I became “Momma Bear.” This is a phrase I coined when I realized I would not let anyone hurt my team members. I would always have their backs and they would always be my “Baby Bears.”
Then I received a call that I was being transferred to Milan, Italy. I had to fly out immediately because of the situation I was assigned to address. I didn’t even have time to have an in-person meeting to announce my departure — I had to tell my baby bears arrivederci over the phone.
Today, I’m in the middle of my ninth move with the company. I had just landed from a business trip to Mexico City when I received a call that I was being named president of the Global Freight Forwarding business unit. This change is bittersweet. I will be working on a new professional challenge I’m excited about, with people I like, but the job is based in Atlanta. That means I’ve had to say goodbye to my baby bears in Miami and leave a city I love. I was not able to make the announcement in person, so again I had to share the news over the phone. After I told them I was being relocated, I paused for 15 seconds and it seemed like forever. It was then I realized this was the hardest goodbye in my career.
Why is leaving Miami so gut-wrenching? Not only because it’s the place where I had lived for the longest time in my 35 years with the company, but also because I had found a workgroup and a city that truly match my personality, both professionally and personally.
So when and how do you say goodbye? I think we will never know for sure, and every situation will be different. For me, the when is now and the how is by saying “Adios, mis amigos,” which is “Goodbye, my friends” in Spanish.
And the silver lining to my move to Atlanta? In this case, goodbye also comes with a hello.