Farewells That Echo: Redefining Family in the Workplace

In the continuously transforming professional arena, the analogy of employees as family endures. Organizations often take pride in fostering a familial culture, emphasizing shared goals and celebrations of achievements. However, what happens when a valued member of this "family" decides to embark on a different career path, leaving the company to pursue new opportunities and interests? How should organizations respond to such departures, and what role should the notion of family play in this context?

Recently, I came across the remarkable journey of Lindsay Hansen, a former and original employee at Rebel Sleep Institute (Rebel), who, after years of dedicated service, chose a different path to raise her family in Australia and now serves as a Relationship Manager for Toyota Australia. Lindsay's story is one of tremendous accomplishments, marked by a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a robust work ethic, and a genuine interest in helping people – attributes that set her apart, quickly earning her a highly sought-after MVP award from Toyota.

As I delved into Lindsay's achievements and reflected on her contributions to Rebel, I felt genuinely happy for her and couldn't help but ponder the common narrative that often unfolds when employees decide to move on. The idea that once an individual chooses a different trajectory, the assumed family ties are abruptly severed seems counterintuitive to the values we claim to uphold within organizations.

If we authentically regard employees as members of our work family, this familial bond should endure even when someone opts to pursue new opportunities or believes that their time with the company has naturally concluded. In family dynamics, we don't sever ties with relatives simply because of conflicts or decisions to pursue divergent paths. Organizations, I argue, should adopt a similar mindset. Leadership is about providing an environment where individuals can thrive, feel part of something significant, and contribute to the growth and direction of the organization. When employees, like Lindsay, choose to depart – whether to explore opportunities across the globe or for other reasons – their decision should be met with celebration rather than lamentation, despite the difficulties that may unfold following their departure.

It is disheartening to witness individuals who have given their all to a company being escorted to the door as if their contributions are suddenly inconsequential. This is not how we treat family members. Whether the employee chooses to part on their own or the company makes this difficult decision, efforts must be made to protect their legacy and to acknowledge their commitment and accomplishment. In instances of departure, a thoughtful and appreciative approach is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the organizational culture and the relationships that have been cultivated among employees over the years. Recognizing the contributions of departing members, irrespective of the circumstances, fosters an environment of mutual respect and gratitude, reinforcing the idea that the shared journey does not end with a farewell but becomes a part of the collective narrative that defines the organization.

At Rebel, we want to do better, and as part of this renewed focus, we are launching an initiative that will dedicate space in our offices to give credit to past employees through images, stories, achievements, and more. This is a program aimed at preserving the contributions of those who have undoubtedly left an indelible mark on our history.

One of our tenets at Rebel is to “find flexibility within structure.” This is most often considered when trying to find our way to “yes” when supporting a client or when we feel that red tape may be impacting our ability to achieve our mission. But, this has far-reaching impacts in other areas, including within employee dismissal. We can, and must, appreciate the legal ramifications that can influence how an employee departure is managed, and this is real, but we can manage risk while continuing to treat these family members with respect and dignity as they navigate their way out of the organization.

As Lindsay thrives in her new role at Toyota, and other former Rebel employees find success in their endeavors, it is essential that we embrace change and recognize that family ties can and should extend beyond the confines of an organizational structure. The name on a pay stub must not erase the shared history and accomplishments that have shaped both individuals and the organization they once called home. So with this, I would like to thank those who have left us but nonetheless helped shape Rebel into who we are today. Lindsay, Mariane, Fatina, Meighan, Felicia, Wedad, Heath, Andre, and others, thank you.

The inspiration for this piece arises from learning about what can only be described as humiliating experiences that highly talented individuals faced as they were helped out of their respective organizations—a place where their efforts were once celebrated. I have also struggled myself to do the right thing in these circumstances and am committed to doing better. We will be grateful for the contributions of those that are moving on and acknowledge that our organizations are better and richer in experiences because of their dedication and hard work. As we bid farewell to one chapter, we welcome the opportunities that new paths bring, knowing that the echoes of our shared endeavors will resonate through the halls of Rebel.

Greg Stirrett, President/CEO
Rebel Sleep Institute