Graceful Exits

There is a trick to a graceful exit

ActivityTimeQuick Links
(to move around the page)
(to take with you)
Introduction Video3:20Introduction VideoNot available for download
Training Video17:12Training VideoNot available for download
Asynchronous Prompt15-20 minutes Asynchronous PromptAsynchronous Prompt
Synchronous Prompt60 minutesSynchronous PromptSynchronous Prompt
Total Time to Complete Graceful Exits60-90 minutes AdjourningN/A


1. A room (or zoom room) where everyone has a seat at the table
2. Whiteboard (an actual white board or a virtual whiteboard)
3. Prompt journal

Introduction Video

Training Video

Asynchronous Prompt

Aynchronous Prompt Click to Read Asynchronous Prompt...

“There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives.”

Ellen Goodman

Part 1: Society spends a lot of time discussing how to make an entrance.  Much less time is spent discussing how to exit.  I’m sure we have all had points in our job where we wanted to create a scene and walk out.  Today, try and think of a graceful exit.  Write down what that person did, what they said, what they prepared in advance, and how they followed-up after they left. 

Use your prompt journal to write your response

Part 2: Think of a time you REALLY felt welcome.  Write about a time you felt REALLY welcomed.  Where were you?  What happened?  Who was there?  What did they do?  Would you have changed anything? 

Use your prompt journal to write your response

What do I do with the asynchronous work? It’s yours; there is no pressure to share it or save it. This is to get your mind prepared for the synchronous prompt.

Synchronous Prompt

Synchronous Prompt Click to Read Synchronous Prompt...

Setup: We recommend using a large space to collect ideas. If you are meeting in person, find a large white board. If you are meeting virtually, here is a list of virtual whiteboard

Virtual White Boards

Step 1: Think about your responses to the asynchronous prompt on graceful exits and then collectively reflect on different times when team members left the team and how it impacted the remaining team members.  Focus on the impact on team functions, operational needs and gaps in knowledge rather than on personalities.

Work together to create a list of 3-5 concrete items that should be addressed before someone leaves your dream team.  What do you need to know?

To make your list you might use sticky notes, gradients of agreement or another tool that you have used in the course. 

Prompt: What are the most important items to discuss before someone leaves the team?


Step 2:  Synchronous Onboarding

1. Go through the charter with new team members. Don’t forget to go through it with new graduate students and postdocs. How do you onboard someone? Here are some of our thoughts and ideas:

  • Don’t meet in an office. Go get coffee or lunch and make it an event.
  • Allow 90 minutes or more so you can eat, talk, and walk through the charter.

2. How does the team make decisions? The first section of this course and the first entry in the charter is about team decision-making. What process does the team use?

3. Discuss the process used to create the list of team values and then share the team values. Let new members know when the team revisits the team values

4. Talk about the Team Conflict Norms. Conflicts WILL happen. Give them the tools they need to navigate a conflict gracefully

5. Walk through the communication plan. Let them know who to cc on emails, how even turn-taking works and what part of the communication plan they are responsible for.

6. Agreements: Discuss what the team agreements cover and why. Talk about a time when an agreement came in handy and offer suggestions for how to access a team agreement (e.g. are you about to share data with someone? Check the data use plan!) and when to create a specific one (e.g. about to write your first paper? Create an authorship agreement!).

7. It might seem kind of silly to discuss exit strategies when a person has just started, but literature in business says to always think about the next step. Maybe don’t spend as much time talking about exit strategies, but let your new team member know that there is a plan.

9. Fill them in on things that aren’t part of the team charter for example

  • Inside jokes
  • Consider assigning a work buddy or mentor within the team
  • Schedule a check-in to find out what roadblocks they may be experiencing.

10. Keep a list of who was onboarded on the team charter and when so you don’t miss anyone.

Name print Signature Date


Step 3: As with other areas of the team charter, don’t create the exit strategy and then walk away.  Schedule regular times to review, update, and revise them so that the content is always current and relevant.

What do I do with the synchronous work? Designate one person to compile everything in one document.

Action Items

As a teamIndividuallyIdentify a team member to do the following: 
1. Complete the synchronous prompt 
2. Set a calendar alert to re-visit the your exit plan(s) at regular intervals. 
1. Watch the team training video
2. Complete the asynchronous prompt
1. Use the completed synchronous prompt to fill in the team charter master document
2. Fill in the living charter table to revisit the modules

Create a Living Team Charter

Charter ItemRecommended FrequencyFirst Date to RevisitSecond Date to RevisitThird Date to RevisitFourth Date to Revisit
Finding JoyEvery 3-4 Months
Team ValuesOnce a year
Navigating ConflictEvery year
Every 6 months
Team AgreementsAs needed
Graceful ExitsAs needed

References and Additional Articles

References Click to Read References...
  • Arnett, J. J. (2009). A longer road to adulthood. Family in transition, 3-26.
  • Bridges, W. (2009). Managing transitions: Making the most of change. Da Capo Press.
  • Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2005). On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. Simon and Schuster.
  • Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group & organization studies2(4), 419-427.
  • Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419–427.
  • Heberger Marino, A., Love, H., & Stephens, A. (2022, February 23). Art & Science of Adjourning. Intereach Video Archive.

Percent of lessons Completed

Move to Other Chapters

Introduction  Finding Joy  Team Values Navigating Conflict

 Communication Plan  Team Agreements  Graceful Exits  Adjourning

Hannah and Ellen created all the material in this course.  We have spent a lot of time, money, and energy writing the script, editing, developing the technology platform and more.  As such, it is copyrighted. You may not share the material or login information with people who have not registered for this class.

Technology problems? Don’t worry! Email Hannah at