After you’ve made the difficult decision to leave a team that you love, you may have flashbacks to a romantic breakup in your past. There’s a reason for that. You’ve been emotionally invested in this team, but now it’s time to say goodbye.
In sticking with that theme and some classic breakup cliches, here are some ways to have that difficult conversation with your team.
1. “It’s not you, it’s me.”
If it’s a team you love, be sure you leave them with the knowledge that this career move is about you, not about them as a team, or their performance. Make a shortlist of the things you’ve accomplished together. Then tell them some of the reasons you’ve made this hard decision. Leave them with the feeling that their new manager is going to be the luckiest person on the planet.
2. “We’re both looking for different things.”
Assure them that this team you’ve built is on solid ground, and they should continue full steam ahead. Some team members may have doubts about whether they should be staying since you’re leaving. Share the positive reasons with them as to why you are moving on. Keep them focused on the vision you’ve established for them, not on your new vision at a different position or company. Perhaps you’re just taking a break or staying home with your kids for a while.
3. “My career is just super important to me right now.”
10 years ago, someone who changed jobs every two years was considered a “job hopper.” These days, the unfortunate truth for men and women is that if you want to get ahead, there may not be a straight ladder to the top. You may have to change companies to change job titles.
No matter how much you love your team, if you have no opportunity for growth or advancement, it’s okay to choose you. In addition to reminiscing about your greatest hits together, prepare and share a roadmap for the team to show them where they can be in 6-12 months as you are delighting in where you hope to be in 6-12 months.
4. “I think we’ve outgrown each other.”
It’s entirely possible that you feel you’ve done everything you can for the team. Maybe you’re moving on not only for you, but because you’re out of fresh ideas to grow the team and the work they’re doing. Maybe you’re stepping aside to not only revitalize yourself and your career, but also give someone else the opportunity to revitalize the team.
No one likes change, but this is a situation where you want to set a positive stage for the new person. Share some of their accomplishments at previous positions, and why you’re stoked about them being the new leader of this team you love.
No matter your reason for leaving, avoid bashing anyone they will still have to work with. It might be tempting to (finally) say how you really feel about the manager you have been reporting to, or perhaps your opinion on the new direction of the company. You’ve made the hard decision to hand over the reins to someone else. Do them and your team a favor by leaving on a positive note.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Caroline Juszczak is a former Manager of Technical Content (who had to tell a team she loved she was leaving) and a current Staff Technical Program Manager at an IT software company.