“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.” Psalm 10:14
We were recently interviewing a panel of Austin business men. They were sharing stories about leadership, their faith, and their experiences as their roles shifted and changed throughout their career. One of them mentioned his predecessor, the executive that prepared him for the position he now occupied. He shared the strategy for that transition, but he noted that even knowing he wasn’t gone all together he felt like he lost something. He mentioned it was “as close to a divorce as a work relationship could experience”, a separation that left him unexpectedly confused and disoriented.
I think there is such a thing as work grief.
I remember being in one of my counseling classes learning about the processes of grief, but beyond that, all the facets where grief manifests through our lives. We tend to think of grief as something only accompanied by death, but it really emerges from any loss, and in-turn any transition or change. When we thought something was “supposed to be” some way, and then that “supposed to be” no longer is, we experience loss.
Losing a job has a season of grief. Having a close work friend change positions or companies brings a shift that can cause grief. Having a respected boss or mentor move on to retirement ushers in a certain level of grief. A major blow up, company reorganizing, or waves of lay-offs will all place us in a process of grief. Losing a close loved one is certainly not the same as someone leaving your office. But change in the workplace has emotions and processing attached to it.
As I heard this CEO share, you could hear his retrospective gratitude the difficult season and the lessons that emerged from the challenges brought about by the change. But at the time it was tough. More people experience these emotions, but often struggle to name it, or feel a sense of embarrassment.
“It’s just a boss/coworker. What’s the big deal?”
“A job is a job. You just move on to the next one.”
We spend an average of over 91,000 hours of our life working, and we would benefit from paying attention to how we navigate that arena in our life. When we invest that much time somewhere it will spill over into our thoughts and emotions. Be attentive to the shifts and transitions happening in your work-life, and be reminded that God remains present.