3 Guardrails for Leaving Well
By: Kimberly Roddy
For the majority of us, there comes a point where we will leave our organization. There are many reasons why people leave. Some leave because they are no longer in alignment with the organization. Some leave due to retirement, marriage, or a new baby. Some are offered a better paying position. Some move on to start new ventures. Others are fired or asked to leave. Whatever the scenario, transition is involved and opens the door for potential conflict. One definition of conflict refers to it as “a condition in which a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs.” With this clash comes the need for protective guardrails to guide and prevent regrets and mistakes when leaving.
3 Guardrails for Leaving Well:
- Find appropriate ways to process your emotions
- Don’t burn any bridges
- Maintain your integrity
Find appropriate ways to process your emotions
We all need people, places, and processes to deal with our emotions. When you are leaving an organization, there is emotion. It can be sadness, hurt, disappointment, relief and a myriad of others. These emotions need to be processed. You must care for yourself in order to be the leader God has called you to be. Jenni Catron says, “Lead yourself well to lead others better.” Do you need counseling or a relaxing vacation? Do you need good friends to be present with you? Someone to make some meals for your family for a few weeks? Do you need to sleep more or exercise more? What is it that you love doing? Get out and do it. Discover what helps you come to life. As you begin to engage in some things that cause you to have energy and rest, you will typically be able to dialogue more about the emotions as you begin to understand them more. Do you need to surrender your hurt? Forgive people? Celebrate your legacy? How can you begin to trust Jesus again after you’ve been disappointed? These are good questions to ask. Take the time to sit with these questions. One way to process the emotions and hear from Jesus is by doing the word branching exercise. A friend taught me this. Write a question or an emotion you feel in the middle of the page and then just begin to write all the things you hear Jesus saying to you. I was struggling with a lot of hurt when I left my last organization. Yet, I chose to write the word “joy” in the middle of a piece of paper. Then, all around that word, I wrote the things that had brought me joy in the ten years I had been there. This was a helpful exercise in dealing with my hurt.
Don’t burn any bridges
You will hear people say this over and over again when they talk about leaving well. Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” You have worked so hard to build things as a leader in your organization. You do not want to ruin that with a moment of anger or hurt or frustration. As you’re leaving, resist the urge to retaliate. Go ahead and bite your tongue, take lots of deep breaths, and only be accountable for your responses. Further conflict will not accomplish anything. Burning bridges is dangerous work. In doing so, future ministry partnerships, necessary references, or working partnerships could be in jeopardy. Be responsible for your words and actions.
Maintain your integrity
In His sovereignty, God called you to lead where you’ve been. You want to be faithful to God and who He has designed you to be. Be honest. Walk with upright character. Remember Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” and Proverbs 11:2-3, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” Once again, resist the urge to take justice into your own hands. Let God take care of it. Resist the urge to gossip, defame, or make yourself feel better by demeaning those who have hurt you. Trust God to reveal what needs to be revealed.
Leaving well can be difficult, but it is possible. In taking the higher road of humility and integrity, we trust that God has our back. We honor God—allowing him to redeem all things in His perfect time.
As a twenty year student ministry veteran, Kimberly Roddy, has a passion for the next generation and a love for the local church. Using her background in Congregational Studies and her years of experience, she desires to see the Church and non-profit organizations be all they were designed to be, specifically helping leadership navigate conflict and change.