Career Advice

What To Do When Your Favorite Coworker Leaves?

The sudden news that your close colleague is leaving can hit hard. After the initial shock wears off, you may feel sad, anxious, or even a little betrayed when your favorite coworker leaves. It’s perfectly normal to go through a grieving process when a close colleague moves on. But there are many positive steps you can take during this transition period. With some self-care, teamwork, and forward-thinking, saying goodbye doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship or a productivity slowdown.

Key takeaways

  • Grieve unapologetically, whether through tears, talks, or reminiscing together about memories
  • Lean on remaining coworkers for candid support and humor during the adjustment
  • Fill in gaps proactively through acquiring new skills and volunteering for projects
  • Celebrate the departed colleague with goodbye rituals and ongoing friendships
  • Integrate newcomers seamlessly through mentoring and social efforts

Emotional Stages When Your Favorite Coworker Leaves

The sudden news

Getting the news that your trusted coworker is off to greener pastures can be emotionally jolting. Maybe they let you know privately first, or perhaps you overheard office chatter and had it confirmed later. However it happens, the realization that your daily work ally will no longer be down the hall is often unexpected.

You may feel blindsided or unprepared, even if your colleague wasn’t particularly close socially outside of work. After all, you relied on their expertise, camaraderie, and assistance to make those chaotic 9-to-5 hours fly by. Now that partnership is abruptly dissolving, leaving you to make sense of the disruption.

Initial reaction

At first, you may go through common stages of grief like denial, anger, or sadness. Disbelief might set in initially if the colleague was a stable fixture in the office who never voiced dissatisfaction. Feeling irritable or short-tempered with other coworkers is normal too, as the impending exit dredges up emotions.

Above all, allow yourself to feel sad over the loss of a workplace confidante. You may replay fond memories in your head of projects you tackled together, inside jokes, or mid-meeting eye rolls you exchanged.

Don’t criticize yourself for mourning the departure of a professional ally who also provided daily social enjoyment. Accept these emotions as typical parts of the adjustment process.

How To Cope With the Departure

Once the news has sunk in, the real work begins of coping with it in a healthy, productive way. The upset and uncertainty you feel may linger for some time after your colleague actually departs. With self-care and team support, you can move through the transition one day at a time. Face the grief head-on rather than suppressing it. And remember change can lead to better things ahead.

1. Allow yourself to grieve

Losing a favorite coworker often feels like a genuine loss, especially when you spent hours upon hours together. So first and foremost, acknowledge that what you’re feeling is grief, and that grief deserves time and attention in order to heal.

It’s okay to be sad

Part of grieving means letting yourself fully experience the sadness rather than dwelling in denial. Don’t minimize the relationship as “just a workplace friendship” not worth mourning over. Be compassionate with yourself and recognize it hurts because this bond mattered to you.

Don’t suppress your feelings

Bottling up grief can compound and prolong the emotions. Have a good cry in your car or at home, vent to empathetic friends, write about your feelings candidly in a journal. Emotional release helps you process the grief rather than ignoring it or putting on a façade at work like nothing happened. Reach out to a counselor if you need additional support.

2. Lean on other co-workers for support

You aren’t the only one affected by the loss. Discussing it candidly with co-workers helps everyone cope collaboratively. Bringing your shared grief into the open forges a new sense of team spirit.

Commiserate together

It’s therapeutic when colleagues can commiserate and compare their feelings openly. You might share how much you’ll miss the person’s infectious laugh around the office. Others may express how reassuring it felt having that person as a mentor. Acknowledging the shared bonds alleviates isolation.

Share funny stories

Reminiscing together about amusing things your departed coworker used to do shows that their legacy will live on. Did they have a quirky habit like using office supplies as props during presentations? Or did they have a talent like yodeling on cue to relieve stress? Sharing these fond memories with smiles and laughter heals the grief.

3. Filling the Void

After you’ve had time to grieve and process the emotions, think about how to fill in the gaps left behind in the colleague’s absence. Rather than just waiting for someone new to come onboard, be proactive in the meantime about taking on new responsibilities within your skillset. Expanding your capabilities helps boost your career and eases the burden of extra work for everyone.

4. Take on new responsibilities

No one expects you to take on every single task your former colleague handled. But stepping up selectively to absorb a few challenging assignments can strengthen your role. Approach your manager about learning additional skills to help compensate for the lost team member.

Learn new skills

Maybe your ex-colleague was the office whiz on all presentation software and graphic design. Offer to get up to speed quickly on those applications by taking a few online tutorials or asking coworkers for crash-courses. Say you’d like to help fill the gaps by being point person on visuals for the next team project.

Increase your value

Making yourself more valuable through acquiring strategic new skills pays off long-term. When promotion opportunities arise down the road, managers know they can entrust important initiatives to your expanded skill set compiled after the colleague’s departure. Your initiative demonstrates you help step up when there’s a need.

5. Volunteer for special projects

Managers scrambling to redistribute work may welcome someone with availability volunteering for extra, special initiatives. Look for opportunities to raise your hand and gain invaluable experience outside your normal responsibilities.

Look for challenges

Don’t limit yourself only to projects closely aligned with your usual skillset and duties. Part of career growth means challenging yourself with the unfamiliar. If colleagues seem overwhelmed taking on your departed co-worker’s workload, offer to pitch in even if there’s a learning curve.

Expand your network

High-visibility special projects get you face-time with executives and expand your internal network. When you collaborate cross-departmentally, you widen your sphere of influence. Volunteering also looks proactive and engaged.

6. Celebrating Your Coworker

Don’t let your colleague disappear without proper appreciation for their contributions. Organize group efforts to commemorate their impact and say farewell in a meaningful way. Get creative about celebrating their accomplishments together with food, gifts, and memories.

Organize a goodbye lunch

Gather remaining team members together for an informal lunch or happy hour in your colleague’s honor. Keep the tone uplifting rather than solemn. Present them with a framed picture, scrapbook, or funny gag gift.

Give heartfelt toasts

Prepare a short, sincere toast highlighting your favorite qualities about your departing coworker, whether it’s their mentorship, zeal, or wit. Sharing specific appreciative anecdotes makes the moment more personal.

Make a memory book

Compile a souvenir memory book with photos, inside jokes, and farewell messages from colleagues. It becomes a heartwarming memento celebrating their time with the team. Schedule time to sign it and include written tributes.

7. Dealing with gossip

When a well-liked colleague departs abruptly, it can spur office gossip and rumors about why they left. Handling this gracefully helps maintain a professional environment.

If you hear teammates conjecturing about personal reasons for the exit, steer them away from unproductive guesswork. Say outright, “We don’t know all the circumstances.” Refocus on discussing your colleague’s accomplishments.

Refrain from partaking in any gossip yourself. Set an example of discretion for others. Even if you’re privy to inside details, keep them confidential. Redirect conversations to more constructive topics.

If colleagues pry about whether you’re aware of any behind-the-scenes issues, firmly but tactfully decline to speculate. Say you prefer to respect their privacy.

8. Building new connections

Forging fresh connections with colleagues can ease the sting of losing your work ally. Discover new potential friends on other teams.

Without your go-to colleague, you may need to make an extra effort to nurture new bonds. Accept colleagues’ happy hour invites, volunteer for interdepartmental projects, and strike up conversations with teammates you haven’t worked closely with before.

This period opens possibilities to gain new outlooks from colleagues. Embrace learning from coworkers’ different strengths and styles rather than comparing them negatively against your former partner. Value what fresh faces bring.

9. Stay in touch

Just because a colleague has moved on doesn’t mean the personal connection must end. Sustain your friendship by proactively staying in touch through social channels and other methods.

Connect on social media

Continue following each other on social media channels to stay looped in. Comment on their updates, reach out to congratulate them on new accomplishments, and preserve the sense of community.

Schedule virtual coffees

Don’t lose touch just because you no longer bump into one another in the office kitchen. Schedule regular virtual coffees or video calls to preserve your friendship. Prevent drifting apart by making an effort to connect periodically.

10. Looking to the Future

Lingering too long in nostalgia about the past can hinder your progress. While still celebrating your colleague’s legacy, also look to the future. Support newcomers joining the team rather than comparing them unfavorably. Be solutions-oriented about making positive organizational changes in the wake of the departure.

11. Welcome the new hire

When a replacement is eventually hired, introduce yourself right away. Be the colleague you needed when starting the job by offering wisdom and guidance.

Offer to mentor them

Share the tricks and know-how you learned from your former colleague to help the new person get up to speed faster. Offer to explain the quirks of systems and share insider info. Your mentoring builds rapport quickly.

Include them socially

Organize a casual karaoke night or Friday breakfast to welcome the new hire into the fold socially. Friendly faces ease the nerves inherent when joining an established team. Make introductions to help integrate them.


Saying farewell to a treasured coworker is difficult, but cherishing the memories you built together will help you through this transition. Allow yourself to fully grieve the loss of their daily presence. Then look ahead to developing yourself professionally, integrating newcomers smoothly, and upholding the team community they helped shape.

Their legacy lives on through the skills you learned, the laughter you shared, and the care for colleagues they modeled each day. Though your work ally is moving on, your bond endures.

Honor them by passing on support and encouragement to others. And remember that when your favorite coworker leaves, goodbyes allow new growth, perspectives, and possibilities to take root.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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