Are we individuals, or just parts of organizations?
Back in March, my friend Robert Brancatelli published a very interesting commentary on his blog, which you can read here.
In his commentary, Robert reflects on how quickly we can become unimportant to former colleagues, once we leave an organization.
I can relate to the experience. Retiring after a thirty-year career with FMC Corporation, I was astonished at how quickly I was forgotten. Calls to old friends were not returned; when introduced to people, the first question I received was “what do you do”? A question I suddenly had trouble answering, without a detailed explanation.
With my new consultant hat firmly in place, I remember being asked by an administrative assistant on the phone: “For what reason are you calling Mr. Smith, and what is your titile”? I had to tell her I did not currently have a title, although I used to — many of them, in fact. She seemed unimpressed.
This same phenomenon occurred when I ended a subsequent thirteen-year career on the faculty and staff of a liberal arts college. It wasn’t quite the same wrenching experience, but it was there. People forget quickly.
Now, in career #3 as a “writer”, there is no organization. Just me. I think that being considered “yesterday’s news” is not something that I will encounter again.
I’ve learned from it, though. Recently, I had the opportunity to make one of my periodic retreats at a Trappist Monastery near Boston. I had time to reflect on who I am, and the answers had nothing to do with organizations. I concluded that I am a husband and father, a friend, a writer and a mentor. No organizational complications.
Just me. And this feels exactly right.