Monday, October 3, 2011

Transitional Items: Leaving on Good Terms

Let's face it.  Most likely you are going to switch places of employment at least one time in your life.  Probably more than once--I've heard the average is around 7.

I've primarily been a public school teacher (a semi-secure job) and I've changed schools 6 times.  I'm hoping my current situation will be a long term one.  I'm getting too old for moving (and Christacular agrees).

Sometimes you might leave a place of employment or a church and find that some folks are less than courteous.  They may feel the need to justify your departure with snarky comments, rude behavior, or just out and out lies about your performance.  You can feel the daggers in your back as you walk toward the exit.

This can be very hurtful and make your blood boiling mad.  You start to recognize the individuals who were only friendly to your face while you provided a service.  You find that some individuals are your true friends while others will become a passing blip on the radar.

We've all been there. 

I think about my and my family's departures over the years and how some have been tear-filled and gracious, while others have been less than stellar.  I've left some places and felt like I was tearing my heart in two.  I cried a large amount of tears, hugged a lot of friends, and have kept in contact with those people through the years.  

I've left other places and felt like I couldn't run fast enough to get away.  

Throughout the years we've made several moves for various reasons.  Ministry can be a transient business, especially in the beginning as you are looking for your fit.  Some churches are wonderful training grounds for young ministers, while others appear to be the final resting place for others.  If you are a young, fresh, squeaky clean graduate and you end up in a final resting place church, it can be bad, bad news.  They will chew you up and spit you out faster than you can recite some of those very important verses you studied at school.  

It can be a hard pill to swallow, but let me strongly encourage you to decide to leave on good terms.  Be the bigger person, close your mouth, and smile as you leave.  Be gracious, be kind, and be courteous--even when they are spitting insults to your face. 

Matthew 5:39.  Just turn the other cheek--and move on.   

This can be incredibly difficult, but I assure you, it is the right thing to do.  Always aim to leave with your reputation and your relationships intact.  You never know when you will cross paths with those people again--and like it or not, you have a history with those people.  And, if you are Christians, you have a whole eternity to spend with people, so you might as well get used to each other.  

Here's a list of do's and don'ts for assisting you in your departure:  

  • Do speak kindly of the organization after your departure.  Do not publicly criticize or insult the people at or during your exit.  It only makes your next supervisor or church curious how you will speak of them when you leave. 
  • Don't leave with cross words or on bad terms.  Do your best to mend broken relationships before you leave.  Apologize if needed, give hand shakes and hugs, and wish people well.  What's done is done, the past is the past.  You can't change it, and there is no need to rehash it in your mind.  
  • Do take the time to speak to those individuals who have been kind to you.  Wish them well, keep in contact with them.  
  • Do find someone who has been in your shoes and talk to them.  I have been blessed to have several individuals that I could speak to about my worries or feelings during transitions.  It makes you feel better to get things off of your chest by in a "judgement free" zone.  You will have the ability to sort your feelings and vent without taking it out on your supervisor or congregation.  
  • Don't be a jerk.  Speak highly of others--you can always find something nice to say about your place of employment. You don't have to highlight the faults, just speak the positive.  
I hope that you never have to endure bad exits in your employment, but the reality is, at some point, you probably will.  Let me encourage you to act in a way that you will be able to leave with your head held high.

I invite others of you to share your tips on surviving a bad exit--but remember, no bashing or trashing!  

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