Farewell to my colleagues: Why I’m leaving the Company after 18 years

“Time is the currency of life”

Dear Colleague,

Today is my last working day at the Company*; I will leave employment on 30 April 2020. That date marks the end of an almost 18-year career with the only employer I’ve had since graduating. It’s going to feel different no longer being a Company employee.

How did I come to this rather dramatic turning point in my life? That’s what I’d like to explain in the hope that it might help you reflect on your life.

Firstly, I want to thank you for the enjoyable moments we’ve shared; this is the main thing that will survive in my recollection of this period.

Being married to another Company employee; having lived abroad in Gabon for five years, during which two of our three children were born; having lived on Sakhalin for 4 years; having travelled to many interesting places; having worked on some interesting challenges with some interesting people are all remarkable aspects of my life that came about due to my employment at the Company.

In this way it is easy to think that one’s career is one’s life as it has touched so many aspects of it. And it is subsequently quite easy to believe that the Company is a higher purpose to which one has dedicated one’s life as if it’s an integral part of it. For me, as for many others, my employment with the Company is what has been the constant factor for the largest part of my adult life, even preceding my relationship with my spouse. No wonder that a rupture in that relationship is a significant event.

For me a turning point came when my mother died in 2013 at age 66, having been severely ill on and off for 13 years. It made me realise (slowly) that we don’t all achieve a pensionable age (mine currently stands at 68), let alone in good health.

After returning to the Netherlands in 2015 I lived through three reorganisations in about as many years. Although I think it is fair to say that I was usually considered to be a ‘good guy’, to me it was clear that it would only be a matter of time that I might be considered redundant too.

In a matter of years, the company that I at first saw as some sort of family, an undetachable part of my life, was reduced to a rational entity that procures resources to combine them for production and earn money. I was just one of the (disposable) resources.

With a sense of purpose gone and not being dependent on my job financially, I struggled to find a reason to stay. After having given the best years of life to the Company at age 41, why give my next best 18 years if it didn’t really seem worthwhile?

I have always had a keen interest in philosophy and politics or, in other words, in trying to understand life on Earth and trying to make it better. Would I be satisfied with my own life if I would stay in a seemingly comfortable, but not always inspiring job only to wake up one day at age 60-something and realise that I had not explored what I was most curious about and that now it was too late to change course? After all is said and done, so my wife often reminds me, people don’t regret what they did do; they regret what they did not do.

I’ve seen many colleagues in the last couple of years at age 50-something being given the boot. A friend of mine pointed out how many of those, typically after a 30+-year career in the Company, sit at home completely disoriented. With the Company out of their lives, what is their purpose in life? The penny dropped and I decided that I was not going to sit and wait till it happened to me, but instead exit at a time that would suit me. And change the course of my life when I still had the age to do so with less difficulty than I would have at age 50+.

Last September I started to pursue a master-degree in humanistics, while continuing to work 60%. One of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life as it rekindled my fire based on my life-long interests. Humanistics concerns itself with helping people find purpose in life and helping them thrive in the organisations they form part of and society in general, drawing on philosophy, psychology, sociology and the study of religions.

With this I’ve entered a new chapter of my life. I imagine myself entering a new landscape in unchartered territory. Like when I adventurously roamed through Wales and the Lake District by myself two years ago. Roaming through terrains that were new to me, where sometimes I needed to trod through bog and dirt, sometimes needed to wade through ice cold water, sometimes being lashed by rain. But doing so in the confidence that I could weather these challenges, knowing that I’d also encounter beauty and feel the sun on my face. And hoping that ultimately I’d be rewarded with a stunning view when I look back. I’m looking forward to my new adventure!

All the best to you and your family.

RH

* As this letter is in the public domain I will refrain from explicitly identifying the Company by name.

On Spitsbergen (Svalbard)

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34 thoughts on “Farewell to my colleagues: Why I’m leaving the Company after 18 years”

  1. Well written and very interesting, for me the key is how much you decide to give to the company, the company doesnt owe you and you dont owe the company it’s a trade skills for cash. I think some people miss this and expect more. You define you in work outside of work if you loose sight of this then in my opinion you loose a bit of yourself.

    Hope to see you again

    Pete

  2. Rik, hi, has finally opened the message and read it. I think it was just a matter of time for you to make such kind of a decision and turn to something that really brings you pleasure and satisfaction. Good luck!

  3. Fully with you Rik, in thinking that is, since I’m a bit behind when it comes to putting words into action. I’m not in a hurry (yet), patiently working the next step and knowing what to go for, as certainly not expecting the Company will keep me employed until pension age. Nevertheless, it is still my plan A to stay as long as I can, in the meantime, progressing plan B 🙂 Looking forward to having that beer post-Corona and hearing how things are going in the after-Company-life!

  4. Hi Rik, Mooi blog.

    Grote beslissingen zijn altijd de moeite waard.

    Delft is dichtbij dus ik kom nog wel een keertje langs om een goed gesprek, onder het genot van een biertje, met je te hebben.

  5. Rik, amazing story. Your words made me to think about my life. I wish you a very happy life. Take care my friend

  6. Hello Rik,
    Brave decision my friend. But I fully understand your motives and has to be said its a sad failing in the organistation to let someone like you go. Sadly there will be many that simply see you and others who have given so much as an anecdote in this companies history. But you called it right, its time to stand up, be counted and let your feet do the talking. I doubt you will be alone

    Take care, savour that fresh air of freedom

    Nick N

  7. Rik, it’s an honour to be included in your email where you announced this. We all recognise some of the points you make. I think the purpose of an organisation is a key thing, at least for people in the type of organisation you are leaving. When it changed to being ‘value for shareholders’, it was at first a slogan, but in time, the org’n became less of a family. I think this is shifting in some organisations, away from shareholder value to serving society. How to do this is less clear, but societal expectations are shifting in this direction. Also less clear is whether this will succeed. But you’ve answered for yourself the questions we should all ask of ourselves, and taken your next move as a consequence. It’s not that the same answers apply across the board, but we should all ask these questions and answer ourselves honestly, and be conscious of why we stay, why we leave, and not shy away from awkward (self-) answers. All the best on the continuing journey, I shall sign up to your blog (only the second for !), and when in Delft, look you up. Cheers, Christopher

    1. Christopher, many thanks for your words of kindness and wisdom. I’ll keep you posted! Looking forward to welcoming you in Delft. Cheers, Rik

  8. Rik, veel success met het nieuwe avontuur! Ik ben blij dat ik een tijdje deel heb mogen maken van het vorige avontuur, en denk bijvoorbeeld met veel plezier terug aan de rugby-avonden met de Gamba Gorilla’s. Ik kan me helemaal inleven in jouw beschrijving van de dilemma’s en twijfels die uiteindelijk voor jou resulteerden in een beslissing om het roer drastisch om te gooien. Eerlijk gezegd denk ik dat velen jaloers zijn op het lef en de overtuiging die hiervoor nodig zijn. Ik zal je verhaal blijven volgen en ben erg benieuwd naar de verdere levenslessen!

  9. Rik I quote Bob Marley ‘love the life you live, live the life you love’. And cannot agree more on time is the one thing that’s in short supply so make the best of it indeed. Best of luck and take care. Rob

  10. Hi Rik

    A very honorable decision you have made, I draw my hat for you, and I am sure you will do just fine. Saying that you were a “Good Guy” would be an understatement – you were better than that and you will be truly missed. The blog is very well written, and I will keep following.
    Hope to see you one day in Esbjerg and to sit at the waterfront enjoying a beer discussing life!

    Cheers Tommy

  11. Goed vormgegeven afscheid voor een juiste reden! Hoop dat je nog veel mag ontdekken. Ik ga je volgen! Groet, Poul.

  12. Hi! You have put a lot of hard work on this website. It takes a lot of courage to make the decision that you will leave your work for your studies. I am very proud of you. Continue the hard work.

    Lots of hugs,

    ☆Anna☆

  13. Rik, what an explanation! What a fantastic farewell. The issues you raise I have been grappling with for years and most recently it has become almost obsessive. So many of the issues you raise have momentum today…..if you follow Simon Sinek on YouTube, I am sure his insights to modern day organisations will resonate as deeply with you as they do with me.
    Biggest issue is around a company finding it’s “why”..its purpose for society at large that goes way beyond profits but how they impact people’s lives over the long term…generations.
    Same for individuals…why do you do what you do other than just to “earn a living”. Are you working on something that is bigger than you and how does it help others.
    What is most important for an organisation? Pure profit and if yes over what period? Does the organisation you work for really care about you? Enable you to the full? Do we serve the company’s leaders or should our leaders serve us, nurture us, empower us? Who has the biggest impact on your mental and physical health….your boss or your GP?
    I really enjoyed also the times that our lives overlapped in Gabon, an extraordinarily special place I will never forget and I do remember the great times we had together and the great meals and wines we shared whilst watching the elephants roam in the garden….we all have some massive decisions to make. Looks like you made a big one and I am sure you will find a lot of fulfillment in it…stay in touch…best regards, Mark, Christina and family

    1. Many thanks for your elaborate comments Mark! I’m indeed examining those same questions you raised. I think I’ve also found some answers and will post some of them in the near future.

  14. Mooi Rik! Met interesse gelezen, goed geschreven. Ik ben benieuwd hoe het verder gaat. Zelf heb ik in mijn studie tijd nog een jaar filosofie erbij gedaan. Maar het lezen van ‘zijn en tijd’ gaat me steeds moeilijker af. Misschien toch maar weer eens oppakken. Frank

    1. Bedankt Frank! Ik ben op de helft met Zijn en Tijd :-). Het is inderdaad een kwestie van geduld en nauwkeurig lezen. Kunnen het er binnenkort graag eens over hebben.

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