I’ve worked at enough places for enough time to have seen people exit under lots of circumstances. I’ve seen people who have been at the organization for years leave to live in a new city. I’ve seen people only last a few months before they voluntarily see their way out. This flotsam and jetsam is a natural part of the work experience.

Every time someone that I’m close to leaves the organization, I experience a small but noticeable sense of loss. In some ways it feels personal, like they are rejecting me or my choice to be there. I recognize intellectually that I have nothing to do with people’s decision to stay or go, but I still emotionally feel the loss. 

It’s a strange thing when someone leaves. Many times they are acknowledged in the traditional rituals of congratulatory speeches, all-staff emails, and goodbye drinks. These are meaningful, but somewhat rote ways of processing loss.

People in my age range tend to stay at a job for 2-3 years before they either get a promotion, move laterally, or leave the organization. Given the number people in that age range in my organization, there is a regular rhythm of people coming in and out of the organization.

To paraphrase an old saying, there are two exits for my colleagues. The first exit is when they decide (or are forced) to leave the organization. We recognize their work and move on with our lives. The second exit is the last time anyone who knows them says their name.

Because of this, I try to keep the names of the people I care about who used to work with me alive. It’s my small way of mourning.

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