It must have been cold there in my shadow

The title of this post is the first line of the song “Wind Beneath My Wings”, best known as Bette Midler’s big hit from the film “The Rose”.  I am using this as a comment on an email that I received from a former work colleague.

However, I really want to think aloud for a few moments about what it means to move on from one job to another and the nature of relationships with the people left behind.

At the end of 2009 – more than nine months ago – I left a job that I loved with an organisation where I had worked for a VERY long time.  I did not fall out with anyone there and have been in to their building on a number of occasions since. I have even been paid as a freelance trainer to provide support in a specialist area and will soon be providing some training to them as well.

I happened to have booked a day off from my present job (which I also love), and spotted that there was a meeting of the network of people who I used to work with a very interesting agenda that was relevent to what I do now. Out of politeness, I dropped an email to my former colleague saying that I would like to come. Although the reply was friendly enough, I was surprised and a little hurt to be told to stay away. I have edited it to remove references that could identify individuals.

I think it’s best if you don’t come to <the meeting> next week (in the nicest possible way)….we have been working very hard to give the <network> a new identity since you left, with firstly me and <colleague’s name> taking it on and now myself and <another colleague>, and I feel it would rock the boat a bit if you came – not only as some people may get confused as to why you are there (seeing as you’re not a Vol manager/Coordinator or working in <our area>) but also as we would feel that we were working in your shadow somewhat.  <Colleague> hasn’t been in his role for long and this is the first <meeting> he has led on.  I genuinely don’t think it would help his confidence to have you there Dave, sorry.  I hope you understand.

I’m very sorry, I don’t understand.

I am very much a volunteer manager – and very proud of my team of staff and volunteers.  I agree that I am no longer based in their area, but I work with organisations based there as part of a regional volunteer managers’ group.

I know that I am (and was then) very good at my job and that I am still fairly highly regarded by many members of the network that I left behind. However, I have no idea that I had intimidated the people I used to work with! 

It also seems that I pose some kind of threat to someone who joined the organisation after I had left.

OK, I’ll stay away. But I wonder whether I was wrong to want to revisit, or are my former colleagues being a little paranoid?

Ride safe
Dave

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