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By: Helios on October 24th, 2013

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The Difference between Resigning and Transitioning: Just Let Go!


They say when you love someone; you have to let them go. Although it may be hard to believe, from my experience, the same can be said for our jobs. When you dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to a project or position within a company, you build relationships with co-workers and form an attachment to the projects and initiatives on which you have worked. These bonds and attachments can make it challenging to hand over the reins to another team member or leave a company altogether. So if change is indeed constant; how do we make the best out of a difficult situation?

Employees typically experience at least one of two common drivers for changes over the course of their career. The first of these drivers is created when an employee is no longer assigned to or leading a particular project or team of employees. While promotions and other internal opportunities for professional development are intended to be viewed as a positive change, the sudden realization that your “baby” will be in someone else’s hands can create anxiety and disappointment thereby counteracting the natural high that came with the new opportunity. Convinced that no one could possibly understand what you do each day, you ask yourself: “Will this be taken care of?”, and “What if all my hard work goes to waste?” While difficult to remember, the reality is that a company will rarely replace top talent with poor talent. Additionally, when you hold a project so tightly, you have likely done enough to prepare it for the outside world (i.e. your team members). Don’t forget- you will still be around for questions.  You are only a phone call away!

The second driver for change is a result of an employee leaving the company altogether due to a resignation or termination. Even when the departure from the current company results in significant professional growth or increased job satisfaction, it is still difficult to truly allow yourself to disconnect from what once seemed so reliable and consistent. Now, instead of worrying whether or not the hard work will go to waste, the inevitable question of “Will someone do it better than me?” pops into your head. The reality here is that you can be assured that someone will in fact do it differently than you. This is where leaders can ease themselves and their coworkers into change by encouraging the team members to recognize the positives of the situation. Take a moment to remind them that a new team member breathes fresh life into a company with new ideas and a renewed sense of energy making your departure from the company an opportunity for everyone.

Early in my career, moving from one company to another meant providing my manager with a two week notice and returning my computer to the IT department at 5pm on the final Friday. Now, further into my career and with an increased sense of loyalty and respect for my industry and coworkers, I no longer “resign”; I “transition”. The difference between resigning and transitioning comes down to communication, transparency and respect. Whether I am handing over the reins on a project or leaving a company altogether, I have found that if I provide all three (communication, transparency and respect) to my team members, I will get the same in return.  I can improve their anxiety of starting something new by providing as much detail as possible regarding what I will leave behind, all-the-while encouraging and respecting the new ideas generated by the conversation. In turn, my mind rests easy knowing I can trust my coworkers to not only pick up where I leave off, but continue to grow and develop the project into even greater levels of success.