It was love at first sight.
They swept in, full of ideas for streamlining processes, wooing customers or handling inventory. Before long, they were your right-hand. They completed you.
But now, they’re saying they’re leaving.
“It’s me, not you,” they said. And yet, it didn’t feel reassuring at all. It felt devastating.
If you’re on the receiving end of an employee break-up, you know it’s painful. Not only are you losing a great employee, but it’s possibly damaging to morale for the rest of your staff.
But this break up doesn’t have to end with a broken heart. Here’s what to do when a good employee wants to quit.
1. Can you fix the issue that’s making your employee want to leave?
“Was it something I said or did?”
Although your employee says it wasn’t you, it’s human nature to wonder. Although it might not be specifically connected to you, often there is something at the root of an employee departure that could be fixed if you just knew about it.
Maybe they want to work a more flexible schedule so they can drop their kids at school in the morning. If it doesn’t impact your production, see if you can make it happen.
Or, maybe they love most things about their job but have found that weekly reporting you insist on has gotten onerous. Perhaps you could streamline the processes and improve things for everyone. Or your employee loves working with customers but has become inundated with new business tasks that could be given to someone who enjoys it more.
What all these things have in common is that they are likely fixable, but often employees leap before they look, leaving you blindsided by a problem that you didn’t even know existed.
Like any relationship, communication is critical for that relationship to flourish.
The more you talk to your employees, the better the chance you can uncover something before it becomes a deal breaker,
But if you can solve an issue at the eleventh hour to keep your employee, it’s worth discussing solutions with them in hopes you can keep them.
2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
However, you can’t fix everything.
Maybe you really can’t afford the raise they want, or you can’t hire someone to cover weekends.
There are also times that providing special privileges can make it seem like you are playing favourites, which can trigger more employees to leave.
So listen carefully to their concerns and think about whether you are willing and able to meet their needs.
3. Make a smooth transition easier for everyone
Ideally, they’ll commit to giving you reasonable notice.
In this time, redirect their work so they can document institutional knowledge such as tasks, workflows, and deadlines. The more information they can share, the easier it will be to transition to their replacement—especially if that’s going to be you while you start the replacement process.
You’ll also want to create a communication and transition plan for colleagues and clients.
Work with the departing employee to make sure they give you the time you need to make an announcement in a structured way, assuring everyone that all the bases are covered. You might consider some sort of send-off as a way to acknowledge the role they played in your success, bring closure to your team and show current employees that everyone’s contributions are truly valued.
If your employee held a key client-facing role, work with them to determine who would be the right fill-in for a while, and make sure that they introduce the new contact to valued clients. In many cases, it might be wise for you to step in as the owner to offer continuity until a new contact is hired and is ready to jump in and take over.
4. Complete all the required paperwork.
All those forms they signed when they joined the business?
There are a bunch more to fill out when someone leaves. You’ll need to figure out what to include in their final pay, such as unused sick leave or annual leave if applicable, bonuses and anything else specific to your situation.
Then make sure that you have a resignation letter on file, along with their address in case there is anything else that needs to be sent once they leave. And collect any company property they might have, such as keys, badges, computers or other devices, uniforms, etc.
Here is a partial checklist of what to consider, although it varies from company to company:
- Annual leave
- Sick leave
- Resignation letter
- Content information
- Non-compete or confidentiality agreement
- Company property
- Departure interview
It might be smart to check with your attorney and accountant to make sure you are doing everything by the book.
5. Wish them well
Finally, it’s important to allow them to leave on good terms, remembering the good times together, even if it has come to an end. Save the guilt trip—however hard it can be—and remind yourself that it most likely actually is not about you…and that they are doing what’s best for them and their career.
Then remember that the best part of the work world is that networks crisscross constantly, and you never know when your paths might cross again—they might even end up being your next best customer.
So slow clap them out, hit them up on LinkedIn, head back to your job. As they say, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”