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Home | Got a Minute | Difficult colleagues | No. 99 – It’s time to end the group farewell present when someone leaves a job

No. 99 – It’s time to end the group farewell present when someone leaves a job

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22 March 2023

One of my colleagues is leaving, and another colleague is organising a farewell gift. Problem is, she hasn’t specified how much we should each put in. Should that be a thing? Should there be a ballpark figure? I barely know the woman who is leaving and don’t want to spend too much. Will I be the only person to put in five bucks? Please help me out.

Put in whatever you can afford, or feel like contributing. I think we need to end these awful ‘pass the hat around’ group present collections – they feel like something quaint from an earlier time but are now well and truly past their use-by date. A better alternative would be for the organisation to pay for a gift if that is the expectation (with the same value gift for all). That then leaves it up to colleagues to do something personal if they wish. Time to end the forced group present.

I work for a large government department in a hybrid office/work-from-home role. I have been in this role for two years and have not been required to travel except for a few training days. My team has been advised we now have to travel, including overnight stays, to be more engaged. We haven’t been told how frequently we will be away, but I am deeply unhappy with the change in my work situation. My job description when I applied did not include travel, and due to other commitments I cannot be away from my home overnight.

It sounds like your workplace could have done a much better job of engaging with you about this change. It sounds like there is quite a bit more to be worked through about these changes and my first piece of advice is to speak to your boss and ask exactly what might be involved – how many nights will you be expected to be away? How often will this occur? How will this impact your current role and responsibilities? I would then explain, if you haven’t already, that you have specific personal commitments that make travel very difficult, if not impossible. Rather than going into the conversation feeling defensive about the change, try to be curious and look for ways you can still achieve the need for increased engagement but within the constraints of your personal situation.

If you can’t find a way forward, check your employment contract to see what was included about expectations around travel. If your employment contract stated you would not have to travel in this role, that may assist with your discussions.

I have been a medical specialist for twenty years, but the way complaints about clinical care are now raised has lost the art of human connection. If a complaint is lodged against me in our system, I get an email that declares I have 14 days to respond, am allowed to bring a “support person” to a face-to-face meeting that I can schedule with the line manager’s secretary, and forbids “discussion with another employee except with permission.” The emails do not offer any details of a specific complaint, other than a generic “communication deficit with staff”, for instance. Because I work infrequently at the hospital, these emails cannot be dealt with for at least a week. There is incapacitating stress between first notification and when I am allowed the opportunity to offer my version of events. In the past, I would be asked for a chat about whatever the issue was, and the matter would be resolved then and there. Your thoughts?

There is no doubt being confronted with a complaint about our performance is confronting enough and needs to be done with great care, compassion and mutual respect. The process you have described sounds like it is largely process-driven rather than putting people at the centre of the conversation. I am not surprised it causes a lot of anxiety until the matter is resolved, and I am sceptical about how truly effective the process can be in addressing the core issue that may have led to the complaint in the first place.

I suspect the system itself is out of your control; this is a process that has clearly been put in place by others regardless of how flawed it may be. However, what is in your control is any behaviour that may lead to a complaint being raised in the first place. It sounds like you have been through the complaint process a few times. Is there anything you can glean from the complaints that are raised that you can work on in the future? Is there any support you can ask for to assist you with communication, for example, that will help in the future?

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