One morning, no one comes to sit at the desk next to you. A coworker has left—which means a new one will take their spot. The desk may remain empty for a bit, but it will eventually be filled. And one day, it is, but not by the perfect stranger you were expecting. No, it’s a familiar face—it’s someone who had left the company just a few years ago and decided to return to their old employer.
Boomerang employees can be viewed harshly. Some people may think it’s a sign of weakness—if they were a solid applicant, would they have to return to an old position? Shouldn’t they be advancing?
But returning to an old employer is not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength. And for the employees sitting around that person, it can be incredibly useful and uplifting.
Let’s get back to the scenario at hand. Your old coworker is back in the office! Hopefully, you are overjoyed. Or at least happy. If that person is an old (or current!) friend, it can be refreshing to have them nearby again. You have someone you can instantly rely on to have your back or meet deadlines on time! Your old lunch buddy is back. Or…maybe you’re on the fence about it.
Here are some reasons an old coworker returning can work in your favor. First, they don’t have to be trained as thoroughly. When an employee leaves, it may cause everyone else to work harder as a result—to make up for the lost help. But a boomerang employee will be able to get back to working at full capacity faster as they’ve worked there before.
This coworker will also re-integrate better than a new employee because they are a familiar face. They will already have some pre-established relationships and understand the office environment. This can prevent the awkward adjustment period that many new employees may have. Less time spent adapting means more time spent being productive.
And then there is the possibility that this returning employee is someone you weren’t necessarily fond of beforehand. Maybe you butted heads a few times. That returning coworker sat down next to you, and you almost audibly groaned—not them again. But yes, them again. It has been a while, though, so it’s probably time to start over.
After a coworker leaves, they have a lot of new experiences that change who they are as an employee and a person. This means you can’t guarantee their success if they return, but you also can’t rely on them being the same person they once were. People change, and they could be a better coworker for it.
No matter what you may initially feel when an old coworker returns to the workplace, you should try to be optimistic about it. Boomerang employees can be a fantastic asset to you and the company. Onboarding is faster, and the odds of them succeeding the second time around are very high. Give the returning employee a chance--they might just thrive.