4 Ways To End A Professional Relationship

Whether it’s the end of a long-term project or you’re moving on to another company, it’s important to acknowledge the conclusion of a professional relationship. Here’s how to say goodbye with class.

4 Ways To End A Professional Relationship
[Image: Flickr user rabiem22]

Saying goodbye can be difficult. It can be awkward, emotional, or both–therefore many of us tend to avoid it at all costs. Ed Batista, executive coach and instructor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, recently examined this topic for Harvard Business Review, and says its important not to skip the process simply because it’s uncomfortable.


Here are four suggestions to make your goodbye more meaningful for both you and your colleagues:

1. Create a ritual

“Some kind of formal denotation is essential to an ending, even if it’s simply saying, ‘Well, this is it,’” Batista says. Otherwise, you’re leaving things open-ended and uncertain. “The difficult emotions stirred up by endings can make us reluctant to formally mark the occasion, but that’s precisely why we should,” he says.

The ritual may be formal or informal, depending on the experience, Batista says. For example, if your team spent a long time working together on a project, having everyone prepare a question for other team members such as “What’s next?” or “What makes you good at your job?” helps people to reflect on the experience, he says.

2. Solicit feedback

If the relationship is between leader and subordinate, Batista says the goodbye can be a golden opportunity to solicit feedback. Prior to the meeting, email your employee questions to guide the conversation such as: “What’s been most helpful to you about our work together?” and “Are there any ways in which my leadership style was unhelpful for you?” Then, you can carry this insight into your next position.

3. Be sensitive to others’ preferences

Everyone handles goodbyes differently–some people get emotional, while others don’t. Being sensitive to that aspect is important, Batista says. “Endings work best when everyone involved has a feeling of ownership and agency in the experience,” he says. It’s not so much about taking a vote, but rather taking into account others’ feelings so nobody feels disregarded, he says.

4. Be prepared for the letdown

Saying goodbye is an end, and it’s natural to feel emotionally drained afterward, Batista says. Instead of letting the feelings overwhelm you, he suggests recognizing that it’s happening and allowing yourself time and space to reflect. Some people may need time to be alone to think, while others want to be around people and stay busy. Either way, Batista says it’s important to allow yourself to acknowledge important endings.


About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in,,, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, and Fox Business.