Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I recently left a job I&'d held for almost 20 years. Virtually everyone
who works there is someone I recruited and hired. I know and like
almost all of them. But it seems that without my presence human
relations and communications are falling apart. I&'m getting calls
weekly from various contenders in departmental dramas, all of whom
seem to think I can still fix everything. How can I maintain friendly
contact but not get sucked back into the reasons I left?
You have a responsibility to your former employer and to your ongoing
friends to be honest with them. To virtually everyone who calls with
tales of woe you need to say the same thing: I empathize. I
understand these are difficult personalities and issues, and that the
solutions seem as impossible and intractable as they did when I
worked there. But you need to talk directly to So-and- so. If necessary,
you need to call on [name of your replacement] to help.
You’re a well-established habit and, as we all know, habits are hard to
break. The problem is that if they continue to rely on you, either to
make helpful suggestions or to vent, that they will not be able to
develop new functional patterns within the firm. Complaining, whining,
and arguing all have their place as tension release in organizations.
But they’re also a way to perpetuate problems rather than resolve
them. Unless you bear ill will towards any of the people involved, or
the organization itself, you need to lay low and butt out. If absolutely
necessary send an email to each of the dialers that says I miss you all
but not the drama. I’m happy to talk about everything from the
weather to your love life to your kid’s latest achievement. But for the
next six months I am taking a moratorium on everything that’s about
the substance of work. You might create some distance in friendships,
but that’s a necessary part of the transition if they persist.