Work Relationships: Good Luck or Good Riddance?

Dec 22, 2015, Written by Jim Miley

Work Relationships


Hurt feelings, rejection, bitterness; the list of emotions can go on for how we tend to feel when people leave our lives or when we leave others’ lives.  I’ve experienced this both in my personal life and work relationships.

Reflecting upon the condition highlights how our relationships throughout all of our lives are really the same…we are humans interacting with one another, and that includes emotions, fears, and needs across all areas of life.  Sure, work relationships have considerations that may not exist in my living room, but the human element is really the same.

What is Separation of Work Relationships?

Separation at work can be termination of an employee, canceling a contract or being fired by a client/customer.  It takes many forms, but the human interaction is very similar, regardless of the setting.

I’ve seen nice people feel humiliation in the face of a termination, executives enraged at the loss of a contract, and work friends sever all ties after a resignation.  These are scorched earth changes to relationships that are inconsistent with a Christian worldview.

How Should We Handle Separation?

There are bad ways to handle separation and there are better ways to handle separation from other people.  Changing relationships in our lives is part of God’s design.  So let’s strive for the better ways of parting to the extent that it depends upon us.

Over my professional career spanning some 30 years, and a lot of people coming and going, I’ve seen both sides of this coin.  Sadly, my experience has been that we tend to show our “tails” more than our “heads” when it comes to navigating parting ways with others at work.

There are a few relationship principals that can help us in our quest for healthy separations when the parting of ways occurs:

  1. Seek understanding. First we should seek understanding for both sides of the coin.  I contend it is counter-productive to view things in right vs. wrong context when considering perspectives on a situation.   There are at least two sides and we show wisdom when we seek to understand other perspectives…to empathize.  Empathizing allows us to soften some of our own sharp edges and be considerate of others views. This does not mean we have to agree, but we should seek to understand both sides of the need for change in our relationship.
  1. Test objectivity. Second is an objectivity test. After considering both sides of the coin, can we test our feelings against objective measures?  Fairly evaluate why the situation will improve by changing your relationship with the other person.  Objectively consider what you have contributed to the situation and what contribution the other party has made.
  1. Communicate proactively and professionally. Always last, but never least, comes the communication.  This is probably the most important action, but comes after we have established some empathy and objective consideration.  At the risk of contradicting myself, this is a major distinction between professional and personal relationships.  Changing relationship status in the work place should be rooted in good reason that can be communicated in clearly defined, concise terms.  This can be very different in our personal relationships; I’m talking professional.  We need to manage our working relationships for our business to be healthy and succeed.  The specific causes for our decisions support the change so avoid letting your emotions creep too deeply into to the equation or more importantly the communication.
  1. Stay constructive. Don’t blow it just because it is hard. The discomfort of communicating face-to-face can drive us to really blow any possibility of a constructive departure.  The old cliche, “it’s not you, it’s me” really can serve as a basis for our construction of the communication.  The business has certain needs, we have tried to meet those needs together, we are not meeting those needs together, we need to change so that the needs can be met.  Pretty simple if we can keep the dialogue in that arena.
  1. Be Compassionate. If there is a glimmer of understanding in the other person’s position, we may be able to add an appropriate measure of compassion during any transition.  What does the other party need to feel better about the change assuming they aren’t likely to immediately embrace it?  We may be the one that feels hurt so the question can also be, “what would make us feel better about the change?”

Put Your Heart Into It

Ultimately, it is all about our hearts.  Use your objectivity and empathy to produce a spirit of compassion and understanding through the change.  Sharing our heart more deeply with our brothers and sisters through difficult change actually makes the change better, not worse.

We can leave with a sense that the change is for the best or at least that everything will be okay.

We can still wish one another “good luck” in place of “good riddance.”

Reader Interactions


  1. Janice Padgetg says

    Great article Jim! I need to hear this! I never could understand how my hubby Dean could be so generous about his employees moving on after years of training & mentoring them. He would always say he was happy for them & would never want to hold them back. I was not so kind. So I need to be reminded with articles like yours! Keep up the great work. Best of luck!!

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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