Your employee asks to speak to you alone, and you find yourself filled with dread. It's your worst fear: They're giving you notice of their resignation. Now what? Responding poorly can burn a bridge you might wish to have in the future, not to mention sow bad feelings among your team.
"Employees take note of how you treat outgoing people. Even if you didn't like the person or thought they were below average, you have to be gracious," suggests Luke Liu, CEO of digital curriculum provider Albert. Matching a bad situation with a bad attitude tells your current employees a lot about what they can expect from you in the future. Instead of getting mad, be grateful for their work.
"Thank them for their time at your company, focus on the positives of their time there and view it as an opportunity. Being passive aggressive or holding it against them will only hurt morale with the people who remain."
It may feel like the last thing you want to do in the moment, but offering your employee a smooth transition out can show them how much you care. That's why Engelo Rumora, owner of real estate brokerage List'n Sell Realty, goes above and beyond to help a resigning team member move on.
"The key is to be empathetic and offer a reference for future employment," he says. "Something that our company has done is to pay two weeks' salary in advance without any strings attached so that the employee can go out and continue to look for another job while not being tied down to our company."
Communicate and document.
Jennifer Barnes, co-founder and president of accounting and strategic consulting services firm Pro Back Office, LLC, uses a resignation as a learning experience. She says: "When someone quits, we want to understand why and what we could have done to keep them."
"A majority of our team leaves to go work for one of our clients, which is awesome but comes with challenges. We document everything and have procedures in place so that the transition is seamless," adds Barnes.
Plan for their resignation the day you hire them.
When you hire a new employee, do you expect them to stay with your company for the remainder of their career? You may wish for that, but the reality is it's highly unlikely. So, to make the eventual transition as painless as possible, put processes in place from day one to have your bases covered.
"It's always a good idea to have a non-compete agreement. I also add information on what's expected from them the day they decide to move on," says Esteban Kadamani, co-founder of glass and glazing contractor INFINITE WINDOWS LLC. "It's important to be transparent with employees from the start. You should always have at least two people in your company that know how to do each task. That way, the day an employee resigns, another one can take over until you find a replacement."
Try to keep them.
Adam Mendler, founder of office furniture retailer Beverly Hills Chairs, suggests not accepting the resignation as a done deal right away. "If it is an employee you value greatly, try to keep them," he says.
"Get to the bottom of why they decided to submit their resignation and understand if the underlying issues are resolvable and worth resolving. If so, make the changes needed to keep the valued member of your team on board."
Ask them to bring their replacement up to speed.
"It's a normal part of company life for an employee to move on to other opportunities," notes Justin Blanchard, co-founder of web hosting solution ServerMania Inc. Once you know a team member is leaving, it's time to make sure their duties will be covered so you can resume normal business as quickly as possible.
"I don't believe in burning bridges, so I'm happy to help employees transition to the next phase of their careers," says Blanchard. "In return, I ask employees to give the company the same consideration and take the time to prepare their replacements to ensure the handover causes as little disruption as possible."