Responding to employee resignations is one of the tougher parts of being a manager. While there is a myriad of reasons that can cause an employee to resign from their job, on some level, it can feel like a personal blow.
The best thing to do when one of your reports lets you know they plan on leaving is to respond in a swift and professional manner. It’s in your best interest to make the most of their remaining days on the job, and that begins with how you handle their resignation.
Here, we’ll explain exactly what to do (and what not to do) when an employee puts in their notice so you can finish out their employment on a positive note, preserve your company’s reputation and leave the door open for a future relationship.
Employee Resignations Are Soaring
If you’ve been a manager for some time, it may feel like resignations are suddenly happening left and right. It’s not just in your head–the quit rate is at a near all-time high.
In what’s been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation,’ four million Americans quit their job each month for 11 months straight. Interestingly, there’s been an even greater increase in resignations among people in management positions. Three-point-eight percent of managers quit their jobs in the first half of 2021 versus 5% in the first half of 2022, which is a much bigger jump than for non-managers.
With a potential recession on the horizon, the quit rate has tapered off some, but it’s still high compared with pre-pandemic times. So, it’s a good idea to anticipate and plan for continued resignations for the foreseeable future.
How To Respond To An Employee Resignation
Keep a cool head
Responding to employee resignations gets easier with experience, but it can still sting or catch you off guard. Before you react, pause and take a moment to collect your thoughts.
Remember, resignations are a standard part of doing business. Advancing from one position to the next is how careers work. If you can frame it that way in your mind, it can help you move on from your initial reaction and into action mode, so you can figure out what needs to happen before the person departs.
While it’s important to take action after an employee resigns, it’s equally important to understand what’s prompting them to leave so you can prevent unavoidable turnover in the future.
Questions like ‘can I ask the reason for your decision?’ and ‘is there anything we can do to change your mind?’ are a gentle yet pointed way to learn what you might be able to do to keep them and other employees from leaving. Be respectful of the fact that employees might not want to share more information and back off if they dodge your initial inquiries.
In addition to asking departing employees questions, we highly recommend conducting exit interviews with someone from HR or via an electronic survey. Employees may be more candid about their reasons for leaving when they’re not talking directly to their manager.
Get it in writing
If the employee hasn’t already given you an official resignation letter, ask for one. Then, write a response letter acknowledging their resignation. This creates a paper trail, which is helpful for the company to have on record.
A letter to acknowledge an employee’s resignation can be simple. Here’s an example:
This letter is an acknowledgment that we’ve received your resignation from the [JOB TITLE] position at [COMPANY NAME], effective [LAST DAY OF WORK]. We wish you well in your future endeavors.
Loop in human resources
Let the appropriate HR contact know as soon as an employee hands in their notice. Send them a copy of the resignation letter so they can get the ball rolling on the official offboarding process. Give your employee the information of who to contact about their final paycheck, transitioning their benefits, and other HR questions.
As soon as possible, meet with your departing employee to discuss what you need from them before their last day on the job. Outline clear expectations about what work will be completed and by when, and what materials (if any) they’ll be leaving for their successor. Provide instructions for returning any company-owned belongings like their ID badge, work phone, or laptop.
Discuss their timeline for departure, including any upcoming days off, to avoid a surprise where they’re trying to cram all of their unused PTO into their final two weeks.
Create a transition plan
This is the most important step in creating a smooth transition when an employee resigns. The last thing you want is to find out an important task has fallen through the cracks because no one was assigned to take it over.
So, consider the following:
- What essential tasks is the person responsible for that need to be reassigned?
- What projects are in progress, and how will they be handed off?
- Will you be hiring someone to replace them?
- Who will be taking over the person’s duties until someone new is hired?
- Can any training be done before the departing employee leaves?
If you’re hiring someone new, post the position as soon as possible to minimize the staffing interruption.
What Not to Do When an Employee Resigns
Don’t get emotional
When an employee tells you they’re leaving, it can be difficult not to get upset. You might feel hurt, blindsided, or stressed out about the prospect of finding a replacement. But remember, it’s not personal. Just as the company acts in its own best interest, employees must do what’s best for them and their career, which sometimes means leaving a job.
Take a beat, notice your emotions and stay professional during the conversation. Be respectful of your employee’s path and try to be supportive of their next opportunity. This is something the best managers have mastered and helps leave the door open for a positive relationship if the two of you ever work together in the future (which happens more often than you might think!).
Don’t be invasive
While you do want to give them the opportunity to explain why they’re leaving, avoid asking too many probing questions. Although you’re probably curious about where they’re going next, leave it up to them to decide whether they’re comfortable sharing that information. If you’ve built a positive relationship over the years, they may trust you enough to tell you more, but don’t be surprised if a departing employee wants to keep the details of their next position private.
Don’t ignore it
You still have a team to manage, and it’s up to you to ensure a smooth transition for the rest of the departing worker’s colleagues. Employees value transparency, so you’ll want to do your best to make sure the news of a teammate’s imminent departure comes from you rather than being spread via break room gossip.
Your employees will notice how you handle a resignation–whether you’re reactive and petty or whether you respond with respect and grace. This goes a long way toward building a healthy team culture that will help you ensure fewer resignations in the future.