It’s a typical Wednesday afternoon, and you meet with one of your employees; unaware and slightly confused on what this ‘important’ meeting may be about. This employee could be someone you hired, someone who has been working alongside you for years, or they could be someone new. Either way, they are a part of the team and how you handle certain situations is particularly important. By certain situations, I mean when an employee hands you their resignation. An employee resignation. You’re completely blindsided; not even your Applicant Tracking System could’ve picked this up, and you may even feel personally insulted. Now, do you react with anger, frustration and disbelief? Or do you take option B? Try your best to choose option B.
It may come to a displeasing fact that some employers can be extremely rude and disrespectful when one does choose to leave. I have first-hand experience. We’ll come to that. Throughout that notice period, you want to ensure your employee who has resigned isn’t uncomfortable, that they can resume their duties until their final day with no doubt or concern that their manager will make it hard for them.
Going back to that option B, here are some steps on what to do when an employee resigns.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
It’s a natural occurrence for you to question whether your employee is leaving because of you. Did you do something wrong? Do they not like you? Should you get defensive and puff up your chest because you know for a fact that you have done nothing wrong? Try and put that all aside. Don’t make it about you and concentrate on what the real matter is.
I once had an employer tell me the way I resigned was wrong, that I should’ve informed them straight away when I was looking for a job so they could replace me. My ex-manager even started telling me how they can resign too if they like, but they ‘care’ about the company, unlike me. True story. How they handled this situation is a prime example of what NOT to do when an employee resigns. They took it personally and felt that I owed them everything as they had given me the job. Try not to get defensive and remember that whatever the reason may be on why they are leaving, it’s the best option for them and they are doing what will make them happy in life and their career. Remain calm and have a positive conversation about what plans they may have for the future.
What if they’re only leaving because they found the same job in the same role, but at a higher income? Are they a valued employee and do they produce excellent work and show passion throughout their role? If so, perhaps have an open conversation and discuss what would make them stay.
When you lose an employee, it isn’t as simple hiring someone new. It takes time, money and resources. You could actually be saving money by offering them a higher salary. As this, in turn, alleviates the need to have to find someone new to fill in the role.
But, there’s always a catch. According to Rachel Rider, executive and founder of MettaWorks, you should proceed cautiously if you decide to suggest a counter offer.
“If someone says they’re leaving for a job that’s the same, but 30 per cent more money, they’re saying if you pay me more, I might stay,” Rider said. “The question becomes how long do you think that person is going to stay after you pay them more? This is an art, not a science, and it’s often a gut check.” There’s always that feeling where if an employee has gone through the thought process of leaving, can you fully trust them even if you offer more? Be aware of this and try your best to keep and maintain the relationship, as further down the track you could possibly provide them with their job back, but with better incentives. It shows you miss them, as well as giving them the space to consider all options.
3. Congratulate Them
That may be the last thing on your mind to congratulate the soon-to-be-departed on their resignation. However, remember all their accomplishments within the company and how much they have grown.
Wish them all the best and give positive feedback on their time within the company. Congratulate them and reflect on where and how they were when they started to how they are now. Don’t be a party popper and make it about yourself, be happy and proud that they are going to a better place and seeking a fantastic opportunity. Look them in the eye and be genuine.
4. Ask For Your Employee’s Help
Getting honest feedback from your employees can be quite tricky. For example, I once had the head of HR from an old job select random employees and ask for feedback. I expressed how I felt, and she even urged me to tell my manager about the ongoing problems that were making my job difficult. I never did tell my manager how I felt. Why? I felt no security. What if they took it personally and cut my shifts? She even said, “take one for the team”. No thank you.
But once an employee hands in their resignation they don’t need to worry about having that ‘security’. If an employee does quit, organise a day and time to sit down with them and invite them to express their concerns openly, and what positive and negative aspects of the company they found helped or made it difficult. An open and honest conversation can significantly benefit you as a manager/recruiter/employer, and as a whole company. You could even ask for your departing employee to assist in training someone new, which can be a big relief and excellent resource in soothing the transition stage.
5. Collaborate and Communicate
Crafting the message that someone is leaving is very important. Some call it the ‘domino effect’. When employees spread rumours that a person is leaving, it gives others the confidence and courage to leave as well. Perhaps they’re thinking, “hmm did so-and-so leave because of (insert problem)? Well, if they’re leaving because of that, maybe I should leave too”. It may not even be because of that problem that an employee is leaving.
Once they have handed in their resignation, you should collaborate with them on how this news will reach others. Organise a staff meeting and emphasise how they are leaving for such reasons and you are sad to see them go. You could even hint that the role is now open for current employees who want to seek a better opportunity. This can push and drive your team to want to stay and not consider the option of leaving; thus, no domino effect.
6. Farewell the Employee and Offer an Exit Interview
Everyone wants to feel acknowledged and appreciated, especially in the workplace. Even if there has been an employee resignation, you want to show them how thankful you are to them and how you wish them all the best in their new career prospects. Telling your employee about hosting a farewell can even motivate them to remain loyal and committed until the end.
Christine Marriott, National Talent Acquisition Manager for Allity Aged Care says that “a positive relationship can be maintained by keeping the employee included and involved. Additionally organising a fabulous farewell; perhaps provide a gift to help them in their new job. The key is for everyone to remain respectful, professional and committed until the end”.
By merely organising a little cake and coffee in a staff room it can show your departing employee and current employees just how much you care and are appreciative of every person. Speak to your employee and have your final say on them leaving. Have a laugh and share funny moments. Bring up past conversations that you and your departing employee never dealt with, and even express to them how thankful you are to have met and worked alongside them.
Allow your employee to leave on a good note, where they can feel that if the opportunity arises, perhaps they’ll come back. Leave the door open for them and remain mutual work colleagues. You never know what the future brings and who will be there to make it great.
7. Take Time To Reflect on the Resignation
Reflect and take a step back on how to make your workplace a happy, assertive and developing place to work. When an employee does resign, and they share with you their concerns and give constructive criticism, use that information and base it with your current employees. Grow and learn by reflecting and always be prepared for anything. This will allow you to consider and improve employee engagement, which you can read more about here.
I hope these tips are useful and actionable for you and your organisation. Whilst it can be a difficult time when an employee decides to leave, there’s no need to make it any worse. By immediately taking perspective and seeing the situation from their shoes, it can become a great opportunity to learn and strengthen your existing work environment. Whilst you might not be able to prevent everyone from leaving, as they have their own motives and know what’s best for themselves, taking this tips into account will surely help you in building a positive and productive work environment over time.
All the best,