What happens after you exit?
Farewells at work make me uncomfortable. Correction. Farewells at work make me very uncomfortable. And this is irrespective of the quality and quantity of time that I have spent with the person leaving. You stand there, watch the person cut a cake. Then there are the nudges on who would say a few words about the person, who is leaving. There is this memento, a Pashmina shawl or a watch, that is given to the one leaving for his or her service to the company. There is food, which everyone is happy to consume. There is an awkward silence, a handful of anecdotes, a few warm hugs, and certain promises to stay in touch.
Voluntary resignations, retirements, and transfers — all have the same effect on most of us. You begin to picture yourself in a similar setting, months or years from now. The thought of not knowing what to do from the next morning, in case of retirement, can be scary for a few of us. There is this excitement about the new chapter as well.
People keep entering and exiting a neighbourhood, an office or a city. The circle of life, as some may call it. Right?
Over the years, I too, like everybody else, have witnessed many 'exits' n the workplace. What’s made me uneasy each time is not the exits, which of course we all know as adults are healthy and necessary. It’s the morning after that leaves me unsettled. You walk into the same space, like every other day, and are face-to-face with an empty seat. You smile or sigh and start your day. The exit brings a change in your life, tiny though. Soon enough, another individual starts to sit to your right or left. This person may or may not be as warm, might never greet you or perhaps will become your close friend. You are busy, everybody is. There is no time to sit down and reflect.
On many occasions, I’ve sat down in the same surroundings that I’d once shared with my now ex-colleagues and witnessed how quickly we all move on. Yes, we’re taught to remember that everybody is replaceable. It’s a humbling experience to make note of. There is no point looking back, all eyes should be on tomorrow. However, the swiftness in our action and change in our behaviour does surprise me. Perhaps, it has nothing to do with our contributions achievements and failures; it’s just human nature.
It’s like the time the person spent with us/for us, never mattered, which is disturbing. Life is short and we all hope to make every day count. It’s a frightening thought — So, this, was it?
Goodbye. The chapter is over. You did well but failed to make it to even the side notes of the book. Your shelf life was just a day — the years you spent on the chair, are insignificant. The moment you walk out of the doors, everyone will get busy with their schedules. If at all, you do return, to collect your claims or the belongings on your desk — your presence may or may not get noticed.
Maybe, there’s a way out of this situation. Let’s give it a try.
Take a moment to respect an exit, just as you’d like yours to be remembered. We don’t work with mere e-mail work addresses, we work with each other.
Let’s not forget that.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.