For a variety of reasons, people leave their jobs. This is undoubtedly a big deal in their lives. However a departure doesn’t just affect that person, but also those left behind, too.
If the person leaving is your friend, you may be really sad. Who will you grab Thai food with on Thursdays? Who will listen to you rant about your worst client and then give you really good advice? (And even if you two never saw eye-to-eye, there’ll be a vacancy in your department, and that’ll affect you, too.)
Regardless, there’s more to it than writing well-wishes in a going away card and raising a glass at her farewell happy hour. Here are six smart things you should do when a colleague gives her two weeks notice.
1. Check in With Your Boss
If someone’s departure will impact your workload, it’s good to know how so you can be prepared. For example, if he won’t be replaced right away, you may be asked to take on extra work. Or, if the position is going to be reimagined and split across departments, that could affect your role, too.
So, set a meeting and ask your boss what you can expect in the coming weeks (or months). Then ask to hash out a game plan together, so you can both be on the same page during the transition period. Of course, your manager will appreciate it a lot more if you frame this as a desire to be supportive while things are in flux, rather than a need to know exactly how many nights you may be asked to work a little later.
2. Learn His Skills
Is your colleague leaving a role you’ve been eyeing? If so, ask him to impart some of that coveted knowledge before he goes. Again, sell it to your manager as a desire to help keep bases covered. (Bonus: If the company’s waiting to kick off the hiring process, you’ll be a very attractive candidate for the role when it opens up.)
And if your co-worker’s already training a replacement? Ask if you can sit in on the sessions. Hey, you’ll still be building out your skill set—for free.
3. Ask for Notes
From a top client’s favorite wine choice to hacks for your company’s most complicated software program, your colleague likely has her own trade secrets. Ask if she’ll share this info with you before she leaves. Preface any conversation with a compliment, “It always impresses me that you consistently convince Company B to renew its contract early—what do you think you’re doing differently than the rest of us?”
While any guides she’s written along the way will be useful, odds are your boss already asked her to save those to the shared drive. So, I recommend asking for all the unofficial tips that made her so successful, including anything quirky that she felt silly putting down in writing. For example, “Michelle loves her dog more than anyone, so asking how Mr. Kibbles is doing is a surefire way to get on her good side.”
4. Do Your Own Version of an Exit Interview
Of course, there’s some feedback your co-worker would probably rather share outside the office walls. Invite her to coffee or lunch and ask her impression on the company, why she’s leaving, and what advice and guidance she may be able to offer you. Of course, you can’t do this with someone you’ve never said more than “Good morning” to. But if it’s a colleague you know, this is the time when she’ll probably be willing to share her insights.
Just remember that you still work at the company. So even if she starts talking about how she secretly always hated another member of your team or how your boss’ voice is so annoying, don’t join in. Redirect by telling her you’d love to hear what strategies she used to be successful in her position and what (positive) advice she’d give to someone starting on the team tomorrow.
Nowadays, one of the best way to keep tabs on a former colleague is LinkedIn. So, send a connection request before he get distracts with his new gig.
If you worked together closely, be sure to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation as well. (Bonus points for good LinkedIn etiquette if you offer to write one for him, too.) Unlike his first few months at his new position, he probably does have the time now to complete requests like this.
Depending on how close you are, it’s probably also a good idea to swap personal email addresses or follow each other on social media. While LinkedIn’s the professional way to keep in touch, you may find email, tweeting articles and back forth, and even Instagram tagging to be a more natural, less “buttoned-up” way to say “hi” throughout the coming years.
6. Show Your Appreciation
Don’t overlook saying a heartfelt goodbye. If you enjoyed working with someone—if he inspired you or taught you something—let him know. Showing appreciation does wonders for work relationships.
Even though you won’t be working together, your paths may cross again someday—and if you’re in the same city and professional association—that day could be, like, tomorrow. Ending on a positive note, and then not letting the connection grow entirely cold, could make a big difference when it comes time for you to look for a new role.
Even though a colleague’s departure can be sad (or stressful), if you follow these six steps you’ll be able to make the most of this situation.