Your work is bigger than this one time and place

Some years ago, a well-respected peer and leader on the team I served shared that she was leaving. This news came at a particularly uncertain and challenging time, and was met by a lot of long faces and heartbreak emojis. I was bummed. Lots of folks on the team were bummed. I wrote a short note to share with the team—the kind of thing I was wont to write often—part acknowledgement that things were difficult and it was right to grieve, part reminder that I and other leaders were available, part pick-me-up (to the extent the latter was even possible). I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I know I included something to the effect of, “Your work is bigger than this one time and place.” It’s a message I have often had to remind myself of, at previous moments of rupture—when a company came to an end, when a beloved colleague moved on, when a round of layoffs seemed to shatter whatever illusions of stability and safety I had held. It helped to remember that just because someone was leaving the proverbial building didn’t mean our work was coming to an end. As Gregg Bernstein writes, you can leave someone’s Slack channels, but you don’t have to leave their life.

Capitalism is capricious, and job security ephemeral. But your relationships with your people need not be either.