So Your Favourite Person Just Left

One of those most painful fallouts from a restructure is a form of survivor guilt. The company moves the boxes around on the org chart, sheds a half dozen roles, and poof suddenly someone you really like, really count on, really respect is gone. You feel bad. Often you also feel super mad as the person is someone who in your honest opinion is absolutely critical, either highly talented or super knowledgable or just an amazing leader.

Go ahead and grieve but then breathe in, breathe out, and let it go. As I've discussed in this series before, restructures are just a fact of modern corporate life. Inevitably during one, you'll find that super people get hacked from the org chart. There are two basic buckets of strategies you can employ to help you get past this.


The person you really like isn't dying. Stop acting like you'll never see them again. Especially in fields or locations (e.g. New Zealand) where people constantly bump into each other, there is a high probability that you can and will work with this person again. All of these ideas below fall into the category of maintaining what was a very satisfying professional relationship:

  • LinkedIn - Yes. It works. Make sure you keep yours up to date. When a respected peer departs, offer to provide a reference online for the work you did together and ask them to reciprocate.
  • Other Social - While I hate Facebook with a passion bordering on obsessivdif this is where you live online, link up if that's your jam. In my case, I'm becoming a bit of a fan of the rabidly passive aggressive and delightfully snarky New Zealand Twitter. Great way to stay connected (Hey Jason!).
  • Professional Groups - If you are in a similar field and there are professional groups, make a point of participating and reaching out to your peer. If they don't already, you can recruit them into the group. If they do and you don't, well now is your time! If a group doesn't exist, make one.
  • Offer Support - Even the best, most talented person will take time to find a new role and get settled into a new organisation. This is a time of vulnerability for even the most independent resilient soul. Be a friend and a peer who offers a coffee, a beer, and a listening ear during that time. It conveys both your desire to maintain the relationship past your current roles as well as just being the kind of thing a nice, good person does.
  • Follow the Leader - Okay, this is totally not above board but if you really like someone... particularly a fine leader... you can drop hint hints nudge nudges that you are ... you know... someone who might consider options. It's flattering to the person and who knows? It might lead you to your next role.


It is almost impossible in the heat of the moment to respect the decisions made by senior leaders and HR professionals during reorganisations. It always feels a bit abusive, personal, and altogether stupid. However, their decisions are rarely either that simple and that stupid. To get over the loss of someone you feel is critical, it helps to try to understand why it seemed like a good idea to the decision makers. Some possibilities to ponder:

  • Real Downsizing - Restructures are in part about finding economies. A company's needs change and the 10 of this you needed last year might only be 8 next year so two need to go. This is particularly common, btw, with senior leaders. We promote people until we suddenly find ourselves with too many queen bees and not enough workers. It may absolutely be true that you have six utterly amazing leaders and only need five.
  • You Don't Know Everything - Some people manage really well sideways or down but not up. Maybe they didn't read my blog on managing up? They may be really good at the aspect of their job that relates to you but suck badly in ways you can't see. You don't know what you don't know. Allow for the possibility this person isn't as awesome all the way around as you think.
  • They Asked For It - Literally. During restructures, some people take the chance to drop hints that they were thinking of leaving anyway. This is totally not cool with HR so pretend I didn't say it, but it happens all the time and is a graceful way for people to depart and the company to give them a nice little golden push.
  • Something Else Needed - You may need the guy who knows everything about X widgets. You may simultaneously need a new guy who knows everything about Y fidgets even more. Senior leaders have to make hard choices. It doesn't mean they don't want the X guy any more, but Y is so dang critical that we have to cut your respected peer in favour of a new skill set. Just because. It hurts, but that's just business.

So let the pain of the departure of your peer go without actually letting the person out of your professional life. Take that time to recover and then ask yourself why. Why was that person so valuable to you. What was it about her that made you want to follow, what did he do or say or know that made you respect him. Set yourself a new goal to adopt the skills or mannerisms or style of your peer and step into the gap that now exists in your company.


Speaking of restructures, I've noticed some people drop out of this list due to bounced emails as they leave their former company. Remember you can resubscribe at: with your new email address.