As I sat there staring at a cake, a Mickey Mouse, a vase of white roses, a strawberry pillow, a card, and some cupcakes I realized this was the end. It was the end of six and a half years of working my butt off for a company that didn’t care I was leaving, the end of managing a store full of people who had no idea what change was, the end of being part of a leadership team that had seemingly left me long ago. I stared at the seven employees who had gone out of their way to ensure I got some sort of farewell. Seven. As the tears of disappointment started to form I realized this was seven more than most other managers would have had for in the past farewell parties had been planned and executed by the leadership team, a team that seemingly did not care I was leaving it. Disrespect – that was the only word I could think of as I exited the building. As disappointment flowed through me I realized that I had never truly belonged, that I had been an outsider who did their share and some. As I walked out of those doors for the last time I realized maybe it was all for the better, maybe this clean break would be for the best – a question free break. A sense of emptiness replaced all other emotions as I climbed into my car and closed the door. This was good bye for good, not a see you later.
Fast forward a year later – I’d been a Cambria employee for exactly one year and one day and I dreaded the concept of leaving, as I sat in my temporary office I just stared at the desk I was supposed to be emptying – on top there sat a list of people I was supposed to call to ensure that I had thanked everyone who had reached out and helped me in my journey over the last year. In the top drawer I had a box of thank you cards that I had pretty efficiently used and all the other drawers contained snacks. I had so much to be thankful for, it was the culture of this company that made it so difficult to leave – they embraced their people. The admins at the other centers were so willing to reach out and answer questions, I was empowered to make decisions. I knew that this was a company I would have gladly worked at for the next forty years without ever wondering why I was there; they made it feel like you were part of the family, like you mattered and belonged. The goodbye emails, gifts, and cards had rolled in – when people heard I was leaving they seemed to genuinely care and wish me the best. I was asked to participate on the last conference call where I definitely cried, I was sent out on a random trip so they could decorate my office, there was a goodbye card and cake. The whole team had come together to make sure that my absence was known, they expressed how different it would be even though I had stayed an extra month to train my replacement. This was as different a goodbye as one could imagine. As I walked out of the doors for the last time I felt like I had an entourage — six of the nine employees had meandered out to their cars and were just waiting, as I started the car so it would cool off I realized how different it was. There were hugs and tears and promises of staying in touch, there were even a couple of “I love you”s thrown out into the open, promises of visits, selfies, and planned time to see the new addition to my family. As I finally climbed into my car for the four hour drive twenty minutes later than I had anticipated I couldn’t help the tears streaming down my face — I was leaving more than my home, more than my friends, I was leaving people who were basically family.
As I sit here a week later I can’t help but wonder how goodbyes can be so different, I am baffled. Culture. That’s what the difference is. It is the ability to make people feel like they belong, like their voice is heard, making sure people are respected. Cambria was my home, it was a place where I had turned with little relevant experience but they had faith in my ability to learn and adapt. I had been a retail manager, a teller, a tutor but never had I been a logistics lead admin — they saw the potential, the ability to overcome obstacles and the energy that I promised to bring. I had the backing of the center manager and I had the confidence that bringing me in had instilled. Leaving Cambria was a see you later — a hopefully our paths will cross in the future. It is the culture of a manager and a company that keep employees and it is that same culture that drives them away, the culture at Cambria was one of education and respect, it was a culture that fostered growth and development and encouraged people to take the next step. It is a culture that expects flawless perfection but understands the fact that everyone needs to learn and adapt to change. Cambria is change.