How “well” to leave a position of responsibility

Leaving a position of responsibility, is it always painful?

It can be, because function and identity are often confused. We also say, and this is not trivial: “I am CEO” rather than “I exercise the function of CEO”. A very strong transfer between who we are and our professional status often takes place. Therefore, leaving your post is, a little, to stop being … This transfer is all the more frequent when you overinvest your functions by devoting 120% of your time to it. This is a vicious circle because, the more we invest in the work, the less we can get involved in the football club of our children, the less time we will find to participate in a choir, etc. The fewer different commitments and activities you have (within the family, within an association, etc.), the more painful it can be to leave your post. When you have held high office, you have also been admired, feared, obeyed in any case … You must also learn to no longer draw your self-esteem from the gaze of others.

Do some profiles live it less well than others?

Some have been appointed to high positions because of their natural leadership, expertise, interpersonal skills, etc. For them, handing over will be easier than for those who – needing to be reassured about their importance or their skills – have a strong need for recognition linked to their function. For them, no longer appearing at the top of the organization chart, no longer being in a position of control, will undoubtedly be more difficult.

Can we correlate the way we exercise our functions and the way we leave them?

In part, yes. The more we managed with rigidity, the more we refused to delegate, the more difficult the start was. Those, on the other hand, who know how to let go and involve their employees more easily quit their functions. Building your estate can also help. It will be truly gratifying to see others grow and actively contribute to them. Afterwards, relations with his successor are sometimes ambivalent: the one we have dubbed can, of course, continue your work but also eclipse you …

Is it possible to prepare for departure and, if so, how?

When the thing is not foreseeable, it is necessarily more painful. Those who have the possibility of planning will choose the date, the way to leave, or even put their dolphin in the saddle. All of this keeps some form of control. It then remains to disinvest the costume, gradually delegating. However, I insist on one point: leaving office will necessarily be followed by a process of mourning. The pain is obviously beyond measure, but the stages are the same. We go through a period of astonishment, then a form of denial, then comes resentment and finally a period of blues. It is only then that we project ourselves again. These phases are essential; only the duration of each differs from one individual to another. Unsurprisingly, the more you have overinvested your functions, the longer these phases will be …

Can the entourage help?

Often, he hastens to remind those who have just left office of all the benefits they can derive from them. “You who complained about not having time for this or that, you will finally find it …”, we repeat. It is rational, but it is too much, precisely! The person concerned is in the emotion, and trying to reason with him at this stage turns out to be counterproductive. You have to be empathetic, accept that his past functions are lacking, that he has no more energy, no more adrenaline … The best thing to do is to tell him: “I understand, it must be hard overnight to stop everything. “ He will feel supported and, then, that is the only thing that matters. And it is only in a second time that he will be able to separate things and become aware, in particular, of the stress, the fatigue or the constraints which could be attached to his former functions. Another point for the entourage: the person who leaves his functions risks putting his need for control or power in the private sphere. This presupposes some adjustments at the start.

How to reinvent yourself then?

It will depend on each one. The only certainty: you have to give yourself the opportunity to land and take stock to know what you really want. It is often difficult to resist the temptation to fill the void by jumping at the first professional opportunity that passes. In all cases, an assessment is necessary and this takes time.


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