What to Do (and What Not to Do) When an Employee Resigns
When an incompetent employee resigns, you may have to struggle to suppress a big grin. On the other hand, if one of your best employees resigns, it’s worth finding out why, especially if you didn’t see it coming. It could be there’s a problem for which the employee doesn’t see a solution, yet with some discussion you could offer an alternative that would keep the employee happy and persuaded to stay.
In general, when an employee resigns, you have work to do. You have to determine the impact, figure out a transition plan, and ensure that work in progress continues. But although your insides may be in an upheaval over how you’re going to deal with the situation, offer congratulations and wish the person well. Responding in anger or trying to make the person feel guilty for the decision to leave is not only unprofessional, but it could inspire others to leave as well.
If the employee has given the traditional two weeks’ notice, it can be a productive period of wrapping up loose ends, transferring responsibilities, and educating teammates. As part of your transition plan, consider what needs to happen to ensure team members have the necessary information to take on the work of the departing employee. Also, who needs to be notified about the resignation? What do you (or others) need to do to protect the organization, such as changing passwords and collecting important material from the employee?
On the other hand, the departing employee could use the two-week period for badmouthing, disrupting, and serving as a nuisance in residence. If that transpires—or if it’s an employee you’re just as happy to see gone—you might offer to pay for the final two weeks and have the employee leave today. Right now.
As long as you’re faced with the situation, the resignation is an opportunity to assess whether the departing employee’s job is still needed. Perhaps it can be restructured or combined with another position. To the extent feasible, involve staff in making these decisions. People who have worked with the departing employee may have insight about the skills and qualities needed.
In general, when someone resigns, don’t do anything you might regret later. Accept the resignation graciously, perhaps including a wholeheartedly upbeat final day. Your employee leaving today may become the very person you have to interview with when you’re the one seeking a new job. As I was once told, “Be nice to everyone. You never know who your next boss will be.”