What to Do When an Employee Resigns [13 Actionable Tips]

As managers or owners, we’ve all been there. A key performing employee resigns, and you feel personally affronted. In this article, I share the best methods to handle the situation.

It can be easy to let this become a personal emotion. Many managers or business owners may immediately feel angry or betrayed when an employee resigns, or they suffer the emotion of being let down, and feel that the employee has become a traitor.

Retaining your dignity and staying mature is the best way to deal with it. Here are twelve important steps you can take to cope with this difficult situation.

Understand it’s not likely personal

People change roles, better offers come along, or the need to try a change can be strong sometimes. Just because you are sticking it out, doesn’t mean you should just assume others around you will.

Don’t offer to match the pay in a knee jerk reaction

Sure, it may come down to pay, however there may be reasons besides just pure compensation that has caused this situation. If they haven’t approached you about asking for a raise recently, its unlikely money is the only motivator.

Dig deep into the reasons

When an employee resigns, it is important to speak openly and candidly with the person and try to get an understanding from their perspective why they are leaving your organisation. It can be difficult not to feel resentment, however its best to consider this a ‘pure business’ discussion.

Employee resigns

Photo: woodleywonderworks, Flickr.

Don’t treat them badly

Just because they have given their required notice, doesn’t mean you should throw that positive culture and employee care straight out the window.

Don’t march them out of the building or throw a hissy fit; it achieves nothing except resentment on both sides of the table.

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Remember the saying, ‘One door closes and another opens’

When an employee resigns, it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Perhaps there wasn’t enough work for the role, in which case you may be able to avoid replacing them, or indeed you end up hiring a replacement who is far more engaged in the role.

Thank them openly

Be aware that other colleagues will look to you for how you handle the situation. Be mature, and stay positive in front of others.

Make a point to thank them in front of their peers, and list why they were so good in their role.

Ask for honest feedback

Finding out why they’re leaving is important, however it need not stop there. When an employee resigns, find out what they least like and most like about their role, team and the organisation.

Ask them for honest reviews – even if it is negative feedback –  remind them they have nothing to lose by being blunt.

Remind the team that life goes on

It won’t be just you affected by the employee leaving; often their close colleagues will also start considering if they should do something similar.

Be sure to stay upbeat and remind them of the great reasons they are there. Reaffirm the company mission, your values and the importance of their roles.

Consider the role

This could be a great opportunity to consider combining roles, or changing the role they were in. Is it possible to share the workload in the medium to long term without overburdening their colleagues, or does the role need changing to suit the current climate?

Just because that role had been filled previously, doesn’t necessarily mean someone needs to fulfill it into the future.

Create a hiring plan

It is worth starting this process of hiring as soon as practical. Look at what knowledge, experience and attributes a successful employee in that role would need to possess. Consider asking colleagues for contacts, or indeed consult a recruitment company or consultant, to help fill this role.

We recommend you also read our article, How to Hire Employees for Cultural Fit.

Transfer knowledge

During the exiting employee’s notice period, set up a solid process to try and transfer knowledge, starting as soon as possible.

This could be done in a variety of ways, from having another employee “shadow” the person, and document what they do, or indeed if you still trust the person, ask them to create a series of handover documents, which explain common tasks and how they are completed.

It is always worth asking, in the case of a gap in knowledge, could you or a colleague be OK making contact for an explanation. You’ll find that most reasonable people don’t mind a period of transition.

Review your employee induction process

Now is a great time to review your new employee induction process before you find the right candidate. We’ve written 10 great ways to improve your employee induction process, which is a must read in this situation.

Continue to include the employee

Whilst the employee is serving their notice period, don’t suddenly start ignoring them or leaving them excluded. Its important to continue, after an employee resigns, to have them involved in team meetings and events.

Now, more than ever, they may have valuable thoughts or knowledge to share. It is not something you want to make them uncomfortable about; they are human after all.

In Summary

People change jobs every day, it’s not a personal attack, and your reaction will have repercussions if dealt with badly or immaturely. When an employee resigns, it is a great time to get on with reaffirming to the team that they are valued, to find a suitable replacement and to work hard not to let knowledge loss occur.

I wish you the best of luck during this difficult time!

Miles Burke

Miles Burke

Miles is the founder of 6Q. He is passionate about peer-to-peer recognition, company culture, employee engagement and wants every workplace to be the happiest it can be. Miles is also MD of Bam Creative, an author and public speaker.