What NOT to do When an Employee Resigns

Ever have an employee approach you with the dreaded, “Do you have a minute?” spiel? Your heart sinks because you know the conversation is inevitably going to end with a two-week notice.  

When a great team member resigns, it’s difficult not to be disappointed. Maybe even frustrated – especially if it took you a long time to find the right person to fill the role. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, business is business, and you have to act with the utmost professionalism. Otherwise, you could end up burning a bridge – or worse, creating a bad reputation for yourself and your practice. 

Here are a few things to avoid when dealing with the resignation of an employee.

DON’T take it personal.

Could the employee be leaving because of how you manage? Sure – it’s possible. It’s also possible he or she is dealing with family issues, looking to make more money (and knows it’s not in the practice budget), wants to learn new skills or just simply needs a change. Whatever the case may be, you’ll learn about it in your exit interview. Giving notice is usually a nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about receiving a combative response. If you find yourself feeling defensive, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is all part of running a business. 

DON’T argue.

Losing a great employee is hard, but if you launch into an argument about why it’s wrong or how it will hurt your business, you’ll only serve to push them out the door even faster. Meanwhile, you’ll do so while leaving a bad taste in their mouth. If you want to try and counter-offer, that’s fine, but ask the employee first and let them know you’ll need a little bit of time to come up with an offer. This will give you a chance to cool off and think clearly. That way, when you reconvene, you can present your offer in a way that’s calm, reasonable and (hopefully) convincing. 

DON’T express relief publicly.

Sometimes, receiving notice from an employee is a good thing, like when someone is toxic or disruptive to the team. Inwardly, you may be relieved and downright elated to finally be rid of them, but it’s imperative that you keep that reaction under wraps. Don’t tell other employees you’re glad to see so-and-so go. Don’t do it publicly. Don’t do it in one-on-ones. Even if you have a relationship outside of work, don’t do it. It’ll will paint you in an unprofessional light and make other members of the team wonder whether you’re secretly wishing they’d jump ship as well. 

DON’T play politics.

Making up stories or spinning the truth to make yourself look better will only make you appear untrustworthy. Chances are, the employee in question has already told at least a few other team members, so playing politics will not bode well for you as a leader. Even if you’re part of the reason the employee is leaving, keep it real. Use it as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve your management skills, and then move on. You’ll gain way more respect that way. Trust us.

DON’T do nothing.

Even if you are indifferent to the situation, simply saying, “Ok, thanks,” and then going right back to work will be confusing and possibly even hurtful to the employee in question. Let the employee know what to expect next, whether it’s going to be a counter-offer or a scheduled exit interview. If you have certain policies surrounding how announcements such as these are to be carried out to the rest of the team, reiterate that information. Even if you’re not feeling it, extend the courtesy of explaining next steps and answering any questions the employee may have. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Now that we’ve covered what NOT to do when an employee gives his or her notice, here are a few best practices for handling the situation like a pro:

  • Acknowledge what your employee has told you.
  • Ask (politely and professionally) where he or she intends on going next.
  • Congratulate them on their new opportunity.
  • Express regret that you’re losing a valuable member of the team.
  • Go over next steps. (If you don’t know next steps, let the employee know you’ll find out and get back to them ASAP).

Responding appropriately to an employee who gives notice will make for a more peaceful and positive experience for everyone, regardless of whether they choose to stay or move on. More importantly, handling these situations correctly will help build your reputation as a great boss, which will hopefully lessen the chances of having to have similar conversations with other employees in the future.