The Right Way to Say Goodbye

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Parting ways is the most difficult kind of conversation, because it always ends with one party wishing for a different outcome.

Even if the decision is a mutual one, and clearly a necessary move for both parties, there is still a sense of regret. Here are three steps to make sure that the process goes through with dignity for those involved:

  • Have the conversation– A letter (even a registered letter) is not satisfactory. Email or text only to set the appointment. Painful as it may be, you have to show up for this meeting. Out of respect for the (business partner, vendor, employee) you should look someone in the eye when you say goodbye.The phone call is the next best thing, but second place is a looooong way from best practices. It’s important to say, in person, that the relationship matters, even though it has come to a close. Life is short and the world can be very small at times – you never know when your paths may cross again. Face to face is the best way for closure.
[box type=”shadow”]If you’ve ever been told off via text message…it kinda stings.[/box]
Donald Trump

Guess What?

  • Explanations don’t help– Arguing a point after a decision has been made is moot. When you hear ‘goodbye’, it is a wake-up call for change. But turning your attention to the future is easier said than done, when you receive difficult news.On the other side of the table, explaining a decision has little effect; after it has been made, it’s best for both parties to move on. Still, out of respect for the past, a conversation is the least you can provide.

    Rationalizations can sometimes stall the conversation, not help it along. But respect and dignity for both parties must be maintained. The decision is, by nature, one-sided. The only one who can really prepare for bad news is the bearer.

    When I tell people that you can use an elevator pitch to deliver bad news, it seems crazy at first. But the preparation (considering the place, considering the person, considering the planned outcome) is critical. The “Bad News Pitch” is one of the briefest, but requires the most forethought, in order to be successful. While this elevator speech does not necessarily persuade, it definitely leads to action. Are you prepared to deliver the message?

  • Anger is a natural result – “All progress is change, but not all change is progress” my friend Dean Lindsay likes to say. Terminating a business relationship is a major change, and causes stress, challenge, and anger – and all of that happens before, during, and after the decision.Saying goodbye is a form of progress, but it can feel more like a punch in the stomach. Or a kick in your favorite glands. There’s no way around it; anger will be in the room. Best you can do is prepare for it, acknowledge it, and move on…in spite of it.

What’s your recipe for delivering bad news?

Have you watched as others failed to follow this list? Would be curious to learn more about your elevator pitch, when the story doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending.

Photo courtesy of Rennet Stowe, used under creative commons. Some rights reserved.

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