This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

The last monthly-ish tip focused on what to do in the face of others’ silence. This time I invite us all to reflect on situations where we choose silence, especially in the face of potentially awkward situations, and the way that draws down on our trustworthiness.

Brief back story: I found out a few months ago that a respected senior leader from a Mastery program I led in 2023 would be leaving her organization. My main point of contact told me the news when I asked if the senior leader could be a “special commentator” for an upcoming program. It wasn’t clear whether it was the senior leader’s decision to go, and I didn’t specifically ask, though given a recent re-org I had a hunch it wasn’t. I did ask if it was OK for me to reach out to wish her well on LinkedIn, and I got the OK.

Since I didn’t know the specifics—and besides let’s be honest, the situation was potentially awkward—I kept my LinkedIn direct message general and positive. I simply said that I understood she had left XYZ Organization and that I wanted to wish her all good things. She replied within 24 hours with an enthusiastic thank you and suggested it would be great to catch up by phone. It took us quite a few weeks to connect, but when we finally did, she told me something that stunned me.

Apparently, I was the only one she knew from her 4+ years at XYZ Organization who reached out in response to her departure.

Not a single colleague had been in touch.

Now, in some ways this sort of makes sense, especially considering possible awkwardness that might be amplified for a colleague (compared to me, the consultant/outsider).

In most ways it’s a trust tragedy, because choosing silence over awkwardness is nearly always a huge opportunity missed, and especially so in the face of a significant change in someone’s career or life.

Consider two simple alternatives: “Wanted you to know I’m thinking of you” or “Hey, I’m not sure what to say, but wanted to wish you well.” Just that short and sweet.

I still don’t know the details of her departure, though it sounded amicable if disappointing. Barring an embezzlement charge, I’m not sure it matters one whit. What matters in professional settings is remembering that relationships always outlast organizations, and being human with our fellow humans is a gift to both them and us.

Make It Real

This week, reflect on situations where you chose silence over an awkward reach-out. What do you see now that you might have done differently? Bonus: Remember it’s never too late to do the right thing and reach-out now.

Learn More

Read about what to choose over silence if you ever accidentally say, “I love you to a client” (true story) or brush up on how using caveats can help in Chapter 9 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

Until next time,

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).