The Women in Housing series is a month-long project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Carolynn Komanski.
I thought a lot about this blog post but struggled with the title. Am I saying goodbye, see you later? Or am I saying anything at all? We are always in transition in our profession. People get promoted, terminated, go on extended leaves of absence, or -- let us be less dramatic for a moment -- go home for the weekend. But in all seriousness, how we bid our farewells is something all of us should consider. We on-board employees, and research has shown that this process is an important transitional part of becoming a team. Research about rituals shows us there is also a need for closure when someone is departing. Lastly, please… Let’s not shy away from the financial expense of closure rituals. Some of us may have designated budgets, while others use a discretionary fund, or even have people pitch in to cover costs.
“Saying goodbye is one of those activities that seems so simple it hardly requires advance thought — and so endings creep up on us and catch us unprepared. We tend to default to our habitual responses whether they’ve been effective in the past. As a result, we often miss opportunities to enjoy truly meaningful endings. Instead they’re rushed and poorly planned — or we skip over them entirely, casting the old aside as we race toward the new.” Batista, 2014
While I believe some of what Bastista (2014) states to be true, I also believe this is different in higher education. Kuh (1998), Kuh & Hall (1993) and Kuh & Whitt (1988) write about commencement ceremonies and how they are a part of the fabric of higher education. Ceremonial goodbyes are also engrained into the culture in higher education. Our departments and even our national or international associations have rituals. Think about your department’s rituals for when someone is leaving. Do you have a threshold of time (ie. three years) where they get a plaque, party, or certificate? Are there different events for student staff compared to professionals? Do you celebrate retirements differently than someone getting promoted? Is there someone in your department who spearheads these events or is it up to each supervisor? Consider how we personalize these events rather than going through the motions.
I’ve worked at several institutions and each department has handled closure differently. This was dependent on the culture and relationships that were fostered within that collegial community. When a colleague asks for a department to forego their goodbye ritual and save the department from the monetary expenses but you know their impact has touched countless members of the institution’s community, do you honor their request? Do you proceed with the ritual? Research shows us that individual praise and gratitude are important as a motivational tool. However, we must think critically. Is this event really to praise this person and motivate them to move on or is it to provide a platform of closure for the community? What do these ceremonial goodbyes mean for the culture of your community?
Everyone is different, every institution is different, and every department is different. Know your culture. Know your community. Know your people. Know how to communicate that someone is moving on. For now, for me, it’s “I’ll see you soon”. And if I don’t… “I hope I we’ll connect again in the near future”.
Carolynn Komanski (CK) is a long time housing professional who currently serves the University of Florida by overseeing it’s youth protection efforts. She received her bachelors in her ‘hobbies’ of architecture and studio art and has been in school far too long. She is currently a doctoral candidate specializing in leadership development at the University of Florida and will be graduating in Fall 2017. Outside of the office CK is an avid gardener loves a challenging DIY projects. She adores the outdoors just as much as she her two children and spouse, and when those things go together, it’s euphoria.
The Women in Housing series is sponsored by Adirondack Solutions.