What to do When You Lose a Hero at Work

You have a spectrum of different relationships with the people you work with.
You share success, failure and ride a rollercoaster of emotion.
You will have one person, above all others, who will be that go to person. You will confide in them and look to them for guidance, when times are tough. They are your rock and you can’t imagine your work life without them.
Then, with little warning, they are gone.
They have decided to explore new opportunities.
You feel empty.
You feel a small part of you has died.
You don’t believe you will feel the same again.
What will you do when you lose a hero at work?

Power of Empathy

When you lose a hero at work the emotions you feel are close to grief.
The emotions you feel are as if the person has died.
As hard as it can be it is important to acknowledge the emotions and not suppress them.
A company I spent 15 years at are now experiencing this type of grieving. This has nothing to do with my leaving, but rather a friend who has decided to leave after 18 years
The inspiring and heartfelt comments, from those grieving her departure, are a tribute to how kind, thoughtful and generous she is.
Everyone will work with or know someone who has these qualities.
The type of person you turn to when you don’t know what to do.
Her legacy is the power of empathy.
losing a hero
She would make you feel important and valued. She achieved this by listening and paying 100% concentration to what you had to say. This may seem like an obvious thing to do but so many do not listen to understand. She did.
Some of the comments upon her leaving:
can’t belive u gone ?? all the best xxx
I was hoping to wake up this morning and it would all have been a dream – but no, my gorgeous has gone. But we will never leave each other ?
So happy to have grown with you over these past years.
You are such a special woman, I am lucky to know you and I love you with all my heart ??? xxx
Good luck in whatever you decide to do, thanks for all your help and support over the last few months, the place won’t be the same without you xx
What am I possibly going to do without you? I still don’t have words. And my emotionless self doesn’t know how to express this. ????????
All the best, thanks for all your support and words of wisdom, you will be greatly missed xxx
All the best to you. You gave my career there a kick up the backside when it was needed, but most importantly, you visited when I was at my lowest in hospital. Your kindness also extended to my children, all of which I’ve never forgotten and never will. You went well beyond being my manager and I thank you for it.
I cried all the way home ?
If you looked at the comments, out of context, it would be easy to mistake them for someone who has passed away.
The comments are focused on loss and grief.
I choose to see it as a tribute and what a wonderful tribute it is.
They value everything she brought to the table.
Just how will they go about filling the void?
Losing a hero

Grief Cycle

Dealing with loss is important.
Internalising the feeling or trying to ignore it is not the solution.
You will go through a cycle which will help you to deal with how your feelings and allow you to move forward.
The four stages of the grief cycle are:
See Future possibilities
Embrace the future
The feelings are not going to be as intense as when someone actually dies. Yet, you will feel diluted versions of the cycle.
Understanding the cycle will help you deal with the emotions more effectively.
The important thing to remember is you will move through this cycle (some of you more quickly than others) and the feeling of loss will subside.

Moving Forward

Although you will eventually feel better the issue of time can be frustrating for many. You will ask yourself the following questions:
  • How long is it going to take for things to get back to normal?
  • When will I stop missing them?
  • Will I feel guilty if I don’t feel sad anymore?

Losing a hero

Dwelling in loss will not help you, the people you work with, nor does it respect the memory of the person who has left.
Would you want people moping if you moved on?
There are some techniques that can help you move on.
Ask yourself a question.
Are you are happy for them, that they are leaving, or are you sad you are staying?
It might be both but if your motive for feeling sad is about being left behind, you are losing.
What do I mean by this?
If you are dwelling on your own situation then you will struggle to move forward.
Perhaps your happiness was pinned to your friend, you just did not realise until they left.
Opportunities exist and you have missed them.
Use this time to reflect and work out the answer to what you want from a career perspective.
Go Hunting
You have lost the person you trust the most. Your lunch buddy, the person you share all your secrets with.
You have an opportunity to increase your network and build new relationships.
Introduce yourself to new groups or enhance your relationship with groups you are already part of.
Look for projects you can get involved in and increase your visibility not just in your own area but across the business.
Losing a hero
When he started working at Google he would turn up to meetings he had not been invited to.
If anyone asked who he was, he explained he was there to take notes and circulate them for the group.
Nobody challenged this.
He increased his network immediately, the majority of which were senior figures in the company – including the founders.
I’m not saying you have to turn up uninvited to meetings, but opportunity will always exist. Where there appears to be little opportunity then create it.
Stay in Touch
Undoubtedly you will want to stay in touch with the person who has left.
A true mark of any work friendship is remaining friends once the work relationship finishes.
How many times have you said ‘Yes, we will absolutely meet up.’ Only for six months to drift by, occasionally saying hello on social media.
Keeping in touch will also present future possibilities.
Their career move may open doors for you.
Over 70% of job changes happen because of someone you know – your friend may have the key to that door.
You had some amazing moments.
Celebrate and be grateful for the relationship and what you shared together.
In life we value experiences, not things.
Don’t dwell. Don’t focusing on the loss. Focus on what you gained from the relationship. Focus on how much you have grown as a person.
As Dr Seuss once said:
‘Don’t cry because it is over. Simile because it happened.’
You could grieve.
Or, you can take the best of who they are, what they did and create the greatest experiences you can.
Whatever their legacy was, honour it.
Believe and take action.

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