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How to cope when a work friend quits

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When a close colleague decides to leave their job, it can leave more than a vacancy to fill on your team.  

Many of us form close bonds with the people we work with - and spend more time with them than our actual families - that it can feel like a personal loss when someone hands in their notice. 

Here’s how to get through this tricky situation and emerge after their last day with your friendship intact - and hopefully your career even stronger as a result. 

Work through your own feelings 

There’s a good chance your work friend has been an ally and confidante you’ve counted on throughout various stressful times at work. You may have experienced highs and lows together, helping each other through plenty of tricky situations and workplace quandaries. 

And if this is the case, let’s be honest: their decision to jump ship can cause a rollercoaster of emotions and even in some ways feel like a kind of betrayal.  

It almost certainly won’t have been intended that way, but it’s easy to feel hurt, let down and even a little resentful about their departure. 

Aim to give yourself some breathing space away from your desk - and away from the person who’s leaving - to help you process these very natural feelings. Acknowledging how you’re feeling makes it easier to be able to return, congratulate them and genuinely share in their excitement. 

Focus on a decent handover 

After the initial shock of a departure has died down, it’s time to focus on the practicalities.If your friend’s replacement won’t have been hired by the time they leave, will you be looking after their work in the meantime?  

A shift in the team dynamic often means a change to workload and responsibilities so it’s sensible to do a detailed handover as soon as you can. 

See how you can step up 

A departure on the team means that the dynamic shifts. And that could create room for you to step up and look to take on some new responsibilities - or at least take on some of your colleague’s duties for a while.  

Even if it’s just in the transition period before a replacement is found for your co-worker, it can be a great chance to show what you’re capable of. You might also get the chance to develop some new skills that help you for your own next move. 

Reflect on your own career path 

Someone close to you leaving might make you think about whether you should stay in your current role. You might start wishing that you were the one making an exciting move, too. 

Don’t make any speedy decisions: spend the next few weeks reflecting on whether you’re where you’d like to be at this stage of your career (perhaps read our guide on knowing if you’ve overstayed in your job, here).  

If you still feel the same after your friend has left it might be time to take action. Although it’s sad to say goodbye to colleagues you’re fond of, but ultimately could it be the change to help you move your own career forward? 

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