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Goodbye Party at the Office

Goodbye Party at the Office

I haven’t worked in many formal or professional settings. When I first landed at a “real” job, it wasn’t the paycheck, status, or new schedule that got me excited to go to work. It was the parties!

Expressly, goodbye parties. Not only do I enjoy cake and confection, but I also enjoy spending time with colleagues sitting around and talking about work memories. Listening to people’s recant stories of the job before my arrival was fascinating. I learned a little bit more about the culture of the agency with each morsel of the cake. I even got to throw in my two cents about personnel and people departing from my working knowledge of their time at the agency.

I also witnessed the unstable rifts and hazardous conditions caused by staff turnover. Not only did this put pressure on all of the staff remaining to work that much harder, but it also was a sobering reminder that the status quo at the agency could shift at any time for the worse.

I came to treasure each of these goodbye parties truly. Each had its element, vibe, and turnout. If the staff member was appreciated or a hard worker, the cake would be that much creamier and from a nicer bakery. If the person departing the agency was an executive in good standing, everyone was corralled into the breakroom to say a parting word or sign the card. Sometimes, if the party was for a team member, the entire team would band together and map out all the dishes to be cooked, purchased, or baked. The parties for departing team members were the best!

In a serendipitous turn of events, I joined the big team at the agency. As a team, we even had weekly parties. There was always food on the table to have a snack at our meetings. I was gearing up for a magical feast of a goodbye party with all the trimmings and everyone in attendance- I thought. As I said, it was my first job. I had only witnessed goodbye parties for people in good standing as my departure and resignation time grew closer to coming about. My status and place at the agency dwindled and subsumed into being stripped of job responsibilities and reduced from a therapist to answering phones.

I wasn’t asked my input at team meetings, and half the team was giving me the cold shoulder. While I should have been more concerned about rallying back my image and standing at the agency, I knew there was no time for that. My biggest concern was that there was no talk or chatter about my goodbye party two days before my scheduled departure. How could they plan a party in two days? Did I ask myself?

That was when one of my last friends on the team told me there would be no party. My heart dropped. I was stripped of my party by a sour puss angry, hostile team member. A person who wanted me to feel ashamed of my work performance until the last possible moment I left the agency. There were days when I would sob and cry to myself in the car driving in because I was so miserable! The whole debacle and canceled party was more of an ego slam than the complaints about my work performance that were unfounded. ¡Ya Basta! Enough is enough! I said to my teammate. I’m going to throw myself a party. But when I told my mom, she asked me why I would throw a party for people that treated me like dirt. I told her I was determined to have my party and go out with class.

That’s what I set out to do the next day. I woke up early, went to the bagel store, and purchased a full spread of cream cheeses, bagels muffins, croissants, butter, jelly, and fresh smoked salmon. I sped off to work and set up the party, with a table cloth galore and all the ingredients of a good team party in the books. When nine o’clock came, and the team poured into the room, they were stunned. Some people opted to leave and not celebrate with me. Others ate, and I couldn’t help but feel warm inside and satisfied that I didn’t let anyone rob me of a good time and healthy termination from my first job.

To this day, people remind me about the party, and the fresh lox, and not the miserable situation I was in at the end. I had achieved what I set out to do, celebrate life and not be swallowed whole by misfortune.

J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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