Leavings, endings and new beginnings
Whether leaving a professional role or experiencing the ending of a close personal relationship, endings need to be attended to in a particular way, if we want to enjoy the fresh starts and new beginnings we hope for.
Unresolved endings create powerful and challenging dynamics that travel forwards with us into other places and spaces.
People who leave their jobs with unresolved feelings connected to the joy of belonging, exhaustion from over-giving, regret for loss of place or sadness from exclusion, will find ways of repeating the pattern elsewhere if they have not attended to the primary emotions that emerge from any belonging. They will also leave the energy of the dynamic in the system they have left.
In a more personal context people who marry or partner a second time without acknowledging the love they once felt for their first spouse or partner, may find themselves repeating the cycle of belonging and then leaving. Who and what comes first has precedence in relationship systems and has to be given its place, with respect for what was gained, what was given and what was lost. When what was first is given precedence then what is next can be given priority.
So, life is full of endings, many of which can lead to complex fields of emotion in individuals and entanglements in wider relationship systems. Please scroll down for the article.
“You cannot say hello until you say goodbye.”
The end of a role or the end of your belonging in a business is often a significantly more powerful event than is anticipated or allowed for. Limiting dynamics arising from endings in our professional lives may come from many sources, including:
- The end of your belonging and place in an organisation through restructure, redundancy, rejection or retirement
- The end of a team and its place in the wider system
- The end of a whole business system (in a merger, failure or other organisational trauma)
- The end of a client, colleague, supplier or customer relationship
- The end of a career in your particular field, whether of your own volition or not
Organisations themselves are greatly influenced by incomplete endings, which set up limiting dynamics in individuals, teams and across the wider system. When new people join an organisation, occupying a role that has been vacated in a hurry or without real respect for the contribution made by the previous role-holder, the new person will usually struggle to perform. The role itself and its place in the system are somehow burdened by an unresolved leaving. The new occupant is caught in a dynamic and may struggle to occupy their role authority, feel drawn to leave or are ejected. This phenomena is known as ‘the systemic ejector set syndrome’ and the pattern repeats and deepens – in the individual and in the organisation.
Poorly managed, disrespectful endings lead to difficulties for the ones who leave including fear of belonging safely again, difficulties with personal energy and professional competence, combined with feelings of isolation or lingering sadness at the loss of belonging. And for those that remain there is often a resulting lack of psychological safety in role.
Organisational leaders often believe, or hope, that the more they pay someone to leave and/or not talk about the past, the more the past will be resolved. However, secrets, unacknowledged contributions and bonds created through giving money, slow human relationship systems down and make it harder and harder to survive, let alone thrive.
Career and organisational endings need to be attended to with as much care and focus as joinings – where there are often processes, rituals, information, dialogue and guidance.
There are multiple types of endings in organisational life and perhaps one of the most challenging is when there is an ending within the system, but the next beginning is not yet clear. Where peoples roles are removed but the people, sometimes an intact team, are displaced without clarity about what is possible next. It’s in these circumstances that it can be important to embrace and acknowledge both truths. This is another example where systemic intervention and the use of ‘resonant systemic language’ can be so useful.
The dynamic patterns created by joining and leaving in an organisation are visualised here:
(please scroll down for the remainder of the article)
Back to source
People very often bring their unmet needs to belong into organisational systems, along with unresolved endings and losses, from childhood. These can burden the person and the organisation and create dynamics that can influence the culture of the whole system. Particularly if that dynamic is also present in the founder or founders.