Q: One of the fellows with whom I work is going to retire in the spring. We have a great workplace and I am certain that our company will have an evening planned to honour and celebrate him. But that does not seem to be enough.
I want this man to leave knowing how much of an impact he has had both on me and on the other guys in the shop. What can we do to let him know how much we appreciate him?
A: The answer to your question is simple. You just have to listen to him. Neither expensive trinkets nor long-winded speeches of gratitude will let your colleague know his importance. Instead, give him the opportunity to share the wisdom he has cultivated after his years of working.
Let me refer you to a great book, The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.
The circumstances in this book are different from those of your colleague. Your friend is leaving his company in reasonably good health and looking forward to rewarding times after he has retired.
Pausch wrote his book shortly after being told that he was terminally ill. He had something important he wanted to say before he died and that is why he chose to write the lecture.
Each of us has a gem of wisdom we would like to share with those who are important to us. Giving your friend and colleague an opportunity to share with the rest of you what he has learned over the years is a powerful opportunity to let him know how important he is to all of you.
Not everyone is going to be as comfortable as Pausch was standing in front of a group of people to deliver his lecture, or to write it out so that it can be published. Your friend might be more comfortable talking to a small group of guys in front of a coffee pot or he may be more relaxed just spending quality time with each of you, one-to-one.
Whichever way he chooses, his messages to you are important. Anyone who has the respect of so many friends at the workplace has a lot to share with you.
If you give your workmate this one time to share his thoughts with you, you will have given him a retirement commemoration he will never forget.