A third of our life is spent working. That’s a long time. It is therefore no surprise that we build strong friendships with our colleagues who can identify with struggles we face at work, who share similar interests, or are willing to lend an ear when things start going sideways. Yet chances are, that despite all those things you have in common with your closest work friend, at some point, you will choose to go your separate career ways. Your desk, covered in files and a massive to-do lists is suddenly looking extra daunting, compared to the completely cleared desk your colleague left behind, and you’re left wondering how you will cope with day to day challenges without your partner in crime.
Losing a close colleague can be a difficult time. You will need to give yourself space and time to process what this means, what will be lost, and what will be left behind.
First you need to come to terms with your colleague’s departure. The news that they are leaving can be a surprise, something you’ve been suspecting or something you’ve been privy to. Whatever your prior knowledge is, the news will need some reflection to process. It’s ok to take the time to feel devastated or angry to be losing someone you feel close to, even if they simply move to another department. Take the time to do something you enjoy doing while processing the information, such as going for a short walk or getting yourself that cup of coffee you’ve been craving.
It might be helpful to get a better understanding how their departure will affect you, not only in terms of emotional support, but also in terms of workload and task responsibility. Do you need to get a handover about certain tasks? Speaking to another colleague or to a manager about any expected changes might be beneficial to get a better understanding of what to expect in the next few days or weeks. This transition time can be a stressful one, so make sure to also set time aside for yourself and your needs.
Finally, just because your colleague may be leaving does not mean they have to be entirely out of your life. Congratulate them on their move and offer your support in making the transition a smooth one for all involved. You might want to put together a farewell celebration. And remember, just because they are no longer your work BFF, does not mean you cannot still be friends. Keep in contact through your preferred means of communication. This may require a bit more effort from your end until you settle into the change in your relationship, however can be of support to both of you in this time of transition.
Petra Borgis a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.