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How to manage a resignation conversation

Your member of staff decides to hand in their notice…how do you react? Do you inwardly whoop for joy, or are you devastated that you didn’t see this one coming and feel upset and hurt that they are leaving the team? Either way, you need to handle the exit well, or you potentially could face your employee walking out, disparaging you or the company, and potentially exposing any sensitive data or information to competitors or walking off with your clients. There are so many unknowns of how this employee will react, and also it sends a message to the team about what kind of manager you are in how you handle this, so it is important to get it right. Think of this as a damage limitation exercise if nothing else.

As a manager you need to train yourself to respond appropriately. Think about how the other person feels. Every exiting employee will always prefer to hear that they will be missed, and you need to send that message accordingly, even if it isn’t quite the truth! So when the news is given either verbally or in writing,  you need to let the employee know that you are “disappointed” and you are “sorry” that they have taken the decision to leave. Try and look like you mean it too.  If they are going on to somewhere else that is similar or a competitor, then you can congratulate them on their exciting move, and acknowledge that you understand the appeal.   At this point I would always say it is worth saying to them that “the door is always open” for their return in the future. It is unbelievable what an impact that this phrase can have on people. Who knows, you may want to re-hire them again, but even if you don’t, the last few weeks in their employment may prove to be very productive.

If, they are leaving without a job to go to and they are unhappy, stressed, or a work situation has blown up, then it is even more important to have a proper conversation with the employee and see if you can talk out the issues. There may be some resolution and a withdrawal of the resignation but even so, as an employer, this puts you on the right foot in attempting to resolve it. Not talking through any issues, could lead to a subsequent grievance, a constructive dismissal claim or even worse a discrimination claim which is uncapped at tribunal.

Key things to do:

  • Have an exit interview questionnaire for them to either complete with HR/management or on their own.  Useful information can come out of this process, plus the exiting employee can let out some steam…if they need to!
  • Make sure the employee has a chance to have their say verbally with their manager.
  • Always give the impression that you are sorry that they are leaving but the door is always open should the right opportunity arise.
  • Ask for feedback about the business, the team, the work, the role and more importantly you as the manager. Could you have been better, is there something you could have done differently?
  • Finally, thank them for all of their hard work and loyalty whilst they have been there, and ensure they know you will be more than happy to give them a reference. 

    All of the above can help smooth the exit for a departing employee, and can help them re-frame their views on the company more positively.

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