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A colleague of mine resigned recently, causing me to feel an emotion I've identified as grief. I'm sad because she's a good worker. Now that she's gone, our work suffers on average, and it becomes harder to make the company great. Even worse is that she moved to a competitor, which means she'll now be doing everything in her power to take our market share, just like I necessarily have to do the same to her.

This is not the first time I've felt like this when someone resigns - I've had similar feelings several times over the years. Once I was sad for days, even though I'm not close to the person resigning (I didn't even work closely with them and it's not uncommon to not talk to them for several consecutive days). However, I seem to be one of the few people thus affected when it happens. Most other people seem to not care and get on with their work.

Is it normal to be emotionally impacted when a colleague resigns?

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    "Most other people seem to not care" – How do you know?
    – xehpuk
    Feb 13, 2023 at 21:57
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    This is going to be very opinion based. Some people will be like you who feel sad others will be like your workmates and not care.
    – solarflare
    Feb 13, 2023 at 22:32
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    Have you ever resigned? How do you feel when it's you the one who is leaving?
    – nicola
    Feb 14, 2023 at 9:26
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    Were you friends? Coworkers normally aren't. Feb 14, 2023 at 12:48
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    "Is it normal to be emotionally impacted when a colleague resigns?" Yes. Also probably off topic for Workplace.
    – Alex M
    Feb 14, 2023 at 21:48

7 Answers 7

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Yes, it's normal to feel sad when someone leaves the team. They were part of your daily life for a long time and now they are not.

It doesn't really matter whether that is a team inside a company or a sports team you are part of or a friends group.

Obviously everyone feels differently about it, because we like or dislike different things and different people. What might have been your favorite teammate might be someone else's "that guy". Or people might be indifferent and not care, because they did not really interact that much on a personal level, or simply didn't really "click" with the other person.

A relationship at work is just like any other human relationship. If it was a nice one you cherished, it's perfectly fine to be sad. It's also perfectly fine to not be sad, if it wasn't special in any way.

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    LOL I felt so happy when some idiots left my team. So, what you said is not completely true Feb 14, 2023 at 9:41
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    It seems like your experience would perfectly fit within my last sentence.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 14, 2023 at 9:46
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    @BЈовић feeling sad being normal doesn't preclude not feeling sad also being normal
    – justhalf
    Feb 14, 2023 at 11:48
  • I think there are several reasons for an emotional reaction. One is that it leaves a gap in your life, which may be small or large depending on their relationship to you and their influence on the dynamics of the workplace. The other is that it makes you question and re-examine your own role, asking yourself questions about whether you are making the right life choices, and considering other options; that is bound to be disquieting. Feb 14, 2023 at 14:36
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Yes and No.

So, I've had some colleagues that I really enjoyed working with who resigned and moved onto other paths.

And it does suck in the short term, but it's never risen to the level that I would call 'Grief'.

If you are getting to a stage where it's grief, as in Crying, feeling sad constantly etc. - then I would suggest you may want to seek out some professional help as to why you feel their leaving the company so strongly.

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    "Once I was sad for days, even though I'm not close to the person resigning (I didn't even work closely with them and it's not uncommon to not talk to them for several consecutive days" This part seems highly unusual.
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 13, 2023 at 21:01
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    honestly this is the real answer. OP seems to needs professional psychological medical help
    – Long
    Feb 14, 2023 at 18:29
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Is it normal to be emotionally impacted when a colleague resigns?

Of course. You are losing a good worker, and possibly a good friend.

However, this is what happens in a job. People come and people go. Most get over it pretty quickly.

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It is reasonable to feel sad that a friend is leaving and you will not see much of them in future. That's natural in and outside of the workplace; the same thing happens if someone moves away, or even in some situations where someone gets married or has kids or does something else that suddenly reduces the amount of time you can spend with them.

However, you seem to be going a bit far by viewing them as a traitor or someone who is joining the enemy and working against you. And your chief worry seems to be not that you won't see them, but that they'll no longer be making your company great. That is not a proportional attitude and indicates a poor work-life balance. They are not betraying you; they are just taking another job. It's just a job, something people do for money so they can buy things and do other more interesting things. Maybe the company wasn't rewarding your friend as much as it should have, or couldn't provide your friend what they needed. They're entitled to go somewhere else in pursuit of a better job, and so are you.

Assuming the person isn't behaving in an underhand or evil way (in which case why are you friends with them?) it will be competition over which company is better, has the better product, provides the better service, and that's something you can influence. It sounds like you are unhealthily, blindly attached to your employer and defensive of them - consider that they are only paying you because they need work done and will fire you if they no longer see value in employing you.

I'm not a psychologist, but maybe someone leaving is making you question your attachment to the company, or questioning your life choices. You may even be jealous of them for leaving. Are you really happy and fulfilled? Do you have a life outside work?

You should certainly try and stay in touch with the person. You can be friends with someone from a rival company: in many industries it is very common.

tldr: It's natural to feel sad, but you may need to consider your work/life balance and why you are upset.

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  • "However, you seem to be going a bit far by viewing them as a traitor or someone who is joining the enemy and working against you." - Anger is the second of the five stage of grief.
    – Philipp
    Feb 14, 2023 at 12:47
  • I definitely don't view it as betrayal. If so I'd be angry, but I generally don't get angry when people resign.
    – Allure
    Feb 14, 2023 at 12:54
  • @Allure Well it certainly sounds like you feel she personally let you down in some way: "Now that she's gone, our work suffers on average, and it becomes harder to make the company great."
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 15, 2023 at 18:39
  • @DKNguyen I don't see how that quote implies I feel like she personally let me down in some way?
    – Allure
    Feb 15, 2023 at 23:21
  • @Allure She chose to leave and as a result your work suffers and it is more difficult to make the company great. That's what those words sound like.
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 15, 2023 at 23:54
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Once I was sad for days, even though I'm not close to the person resigning

We can all grieve over many different things. To me, it feels like you may be grieving the loss of a team member and that you are dealing with what that means to the organization. Questions like Why are people leaving? Is there something wrong here? Why would they go to a competitor can all pop up at times like this. That feels perfectly normal. Just remember that our day jobs are generally a transaction. Your co-worker probably had perfectly mundane reasons for leaving that are not a slight to you or your company.

I do not think that you have described an inordinate amount of grief. If you were close to this co-worker, I'd suggest keeping in touch as much as feasible to hang on to whatever personal relationship you had. If it was a strictly professional relationship, then it should heal with time. How long? No idea, but progress over time may be the best way to self diagnose. As others have mentioned, seek professional help if it affects your ability to function.

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As others have said, it can be normal to be said when someone leaves, since it diminishes your workplace (if they're a good contributor) and your life (if you had a work relationship with them).

What I think you should do about this is see things from their point of view. They presumably made this change to improve their life. Probably the new job is an easier commute, has more interesting work, pays better, etc. Try to be happy for them, and this should mitigate your sadness somewhat. And if it doesn't, perhaps you should think about why you're making this all about yourself.

If this happens every time someone leaves, regardless of your relationship with the person, it seems like you may put too much importance into your work life rather than your home life.

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If you are feeling grief when a colleague leaves (especially if you weren't emotionally close to that person), I suspect that there may be some unresolved issues in your past, and that your reaction to your colleague leaving is triggering repressed or unresolved feelings.

I would advise you to seek counseling - not because this feeling is "wrong" or "bad" - but because it may be a sign that you can be helped in some other part of your life.

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