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When a Resignation From a Staff Member is About You!!




You know, we are in a society in which leaders are encouraged to learn, consider, grow, evolve, and maintain sustainability in their own growth, while also having the responsibility to grow others, using the same above mentioned expectations and processes too.

And oftentimes, it’s doable, fun, and gives us a real challenge. But, it’s always worth it. I mean, growth is beautiful, right? It is to me! 


I’ve been a leader for as long as I can remember. My teachers called me a leader in the classroom back in the 80s and someone has always “seen something” in me. So I’ve been on a leadership journey for a few decades and I welcome the process, generally. 


But there are times when leadership feels lonely and when there are incidents of being misunderstood and that feels even worse. 


One of the most recent interactions of being misunderstood that I’ve had was related to a resignation. Intuitively, I knew it was coming but it still didn’t feel good. Less of an impactful shock…maybe, but still a shock, indeed. 


Nonetheless, the initial resignation was very straightforward and associated with a desired pay increase. I get it. We need more money…and it’s important to ask and advocate for oneself. In this incident, I didn’t say no…but rather, let’s wait a few months. And then boom–resignation. And, again, I get it.


And in many cases of resignation, termination, or shifting, things can feel personal even when they aren’t. I mean, staff need money to live, or titles to feel good, or power to have influence. Whatever the exact circumstances, people have needs and their work environment provides it. So many HR decisions aren’t actually personal. They are…simply what they are.

But there are the few times in which the resignation is about the leader. And, to date, I have not been told that this particular resignation is about me but I took it as an opportunity to explore…if it is me. I considered a lot of possibilities: pay and performance, pay scales and organizational structures, the match or mismatch of communication and learning styles, trust or micromanagement, or simply, personality clashes. 


Again, while I was not told this resignation is about me, I took it as an opportunity to explore myself, as a leader. An assessment, if you will. 


And boy, it can be really uncomfortable to look at yourself through the lens of possible discomfort. 


I checked with one teammate and the feedback was–I think you’re a good leader that respects me, but I do think I’m having a challenge with mismanagement. Basically I, LaNail, have assigned too much work with too short deadlines, thus communicating that I do not care about one’s outside responsibilities or experiences. Ah, ok. Easy fix. The staff member talked to me about their outside responsibilities while leading a conversation around new management desires, expectations, and delivery. It wasn’t just about me…but there was definitely an opportunity for me to show up differently and create value in a new way. I’m excited about it! 

Another staff member told me that sometimes, in emails, I do not express salutations and that feels cold…as if I do not actually care about them. And I get that too. I mean, email is tough. 


You can’t read tone. But when what you do see is “x, y, z” but what you need to see is “Good Morning” and “How are you today?,” it may feel disheartening. And honestly, I get it. Even when I get an email without a salutation, I am taken aback. And honestly, I should have been better and noticed the issue. But I didn’t. I was too focused on the message–getting information out and setting operational standards. But, I get it and will take it as an opportunity to be better. 

But the best thing about these two things is…I have an actual opportunity to grow. And that’s exactly how I see it. 


And in these situations, it’s kind of about me but more about the technical side of me versus the emotional and personality side of me. 


And yet, in my time of reflection and introspection, I had to consider, what if resignations are actually about the leader. Again, many leaders are not trained to think about that possibility. They place the decision solely on the employee which isn’t kind or fair. Sometimes, it IS about the leader. 


As a therapist, clients come in and are ready to explore the aspects of their lives that they need to change. We are not always a victim to a circumstance but rather a perpetrator (known and unknown) in the environment. Sometimes, we are actually the reason one may leave, especially when we consider a lack of intention and an unawareness of impact. Sometimes, it IS us. 

So when we are faced with a situation in which we, as the leaders, are the reason one may resign, we have to think, are we going to use this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve, or will we place full responsibility on the employee?


Think about this: In ANY role of leadership that you may have led, did you ask yourself, “Is this person’s departure related to who I am and where/when I should grow?” And once you answer this question, ask yourself again, “Now, what do I want to do?”

I’ll tell you, anytime it happens to me, I’ll consider: What is my role in this situation and how does it challenge me to be a better leader and a better person? 

I’ve learned some lessons and will apply them ASAP. 2024 is already looking up! 


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