I still remember March 27, 2005, vividly. It was the day that my friends and I huddled together in my college dorm room to watch the pilot episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. It was the very first (and last) time that I had the rare pleasure of collectively gathering to watch a television series from its inception. The first episode follows the original main characters Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), and George O’Malleys (T.R. Knight) during their first 48-hour shift as surgical interns at Seattle Grace Hospital. The night before Meredith’s, the show’s title character, internship began, she has a one-night stand with a handsome stranger that she meets in a bar. In classic television irony, she discovers that the “stranger” is in fact the chief of neurosurgery at the hospital and one of her new bosses. It was clear that we were going to be in for a wild ride!
Grey’s Anatomy did not disappoint! Meredith starts the series as “dark and twisty” due to the emotional unavailability and neglect of her world-class surgeon mother, Ellis Grey. Meredith, however, undergoes unimaginable growth throughout the show’s impressive 19 seasons. That growth is precipitated by both joy and more tragedy than one human could possibly endure. Meredith’s fellow interns become her family. She eventually marries that handsome stranger from the bar (but not without a fight from his wife first). They have a couple of kids and he unexpectedly dies in the most infuriating way possible. She herself has an unbelievable number of near death experiences. All the while, Meredith climbs the ranks at Seattle Grace from intern to the eventual chief of surgery.
As a loyal viewer from day one, I feel like I grew up right along with Meredith and her friends, as evidenced by my viewing patterns. What started as in-person viewing parties morphed into watching the show while on the phone with my best friend and discussing our opinions during commercial breaks and then became recap phone calls after we both got around to watching the episodes on our DVRs.
This makes Meredith’s February 23, 2023 departure from Seattle Grace, now renamed Grey Sloan Memorial, particularly bittersweet. Last season, Meredith decides to join her former co-worker and friend, Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) in Boston to find a cure for Alzheimer’s (a disease that ravaged her mother). She also makes the move so that her daughter can attend a school that challenges her extreme intellect. It is a move that makes sense. It’s still hard to say goodbye. Luckily, Meredith did not leave us or the new interns that she was overseeing in the lurch. Instead, she passes the torch and literally leaves them with the keys to her house so that they can form the kind of friendships that sustained her throughout the last two decades.
How can employers ensure such a smooth transition when employees voluntarily resign? Employers can do the following:
- Ask the employee to submit a written resignation letter;
- Have the employee to create a list of any outstanding projects and the status for each;
- Have the employee help facilitate a knowledge transfer, including creating training documents, procedure/process manuals, and/or how- to manuals;
- Conduct an exit interview to get honest feedback on why the employee is leaving and areas in which the employee believes that employer could improve;
- Make sure that employee’s final paychecks are paid timely in accordance with state and local laws;
- Ensure that employees return all company property, including obtaining the passwords for any important password-protected documents that employee created;
- Deactivate employee access to the employer’s IT systems and physical access to the worksite (i.e. employee badges);
- Determine whether the employee is entitled to severance pay under any existing employment agreements;
- Reiterate any post-employment obligations (i.e. confidentiality, non-compete, non-solicitation);
- Treat the departing employee with kindness. Try not to burn bridges, if possible. Today’s departing employee could become a returning employee or client.
It is not easy saying goodbye, particularly to beloved employees. However, the experience can be navigated strategically and with grace.