Managing a Departure Professionally, Part 2

handling a resignation


Last time, we talked about how to manage a departure professionally when you are the one exiting. Today, let's take a look at that some best practices are when you're on the receiving end of the resignation letter.

1. Be gracious. Maya Angelou once said, "You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangle Christmas Tree lights." Add to that the resignation of an employee. As with anything else in leadership, choosing to be gracious will never cause regret. Getting angry, guilt tripping, or jumping for joy may feel good in the moment, but behavior like that might be exactly why the person is choosing to leave. Remember, the employees who remain will be watching carefully.

2. Consider a counter-offer carefully. Personally, I've never counter-offered a resigning employee. If someone has gone through the work of finding a new job and saying the words, "I quit" -- that's a lot of energy and commitment they've expended on leaving. I have had colleagues who have counter offered, only to have that same employee leave within six months anyway (hint: it's rarely about the money.) In the 20+ years I've been leading people, I've only seen a counter offer be effective twice. Both times the leaders were asleep at the switch and out of touch with the needs of their employees. If you're doing your job well, you'll know that it is time for the person to leave, and then you'll refer to #1.

3. Work on a transition plan immediately. This is will depend on the circumstances surrounding a departure. If it is a disgruntled employee, I would suggest paying him out for his resignation period and calling it a day... and I suspect his co-workers will thank you for it. If, on the other hand, it is an amicable departure, discuss how the message of the resignation will be delivered.  Confirm the departure date and ask the employee to create a transition document with details of projects and status of loose ends. Agree upon the plan and work it.

4. Determine your current needs. Organizations evolve and positions change so the chances are high you do not need a one-for-one replacement of the person that is leaving. Before you start your search, take a strategic look at the talent gaps that exist in your remaining workforce.

5. Continue recruitment efforts. I say "continue" because effective organizations have a culture in which recruitment is a daily and ongoing effort. Leaders should always be on the lookout for new talent so that a resignation does not catch them unprepared. If you don't have a reserve of potential candidates, put together a recruitment strategy immediately. Don't forget to draw out passive candidates as well as search for active ones.

Saying goodbye to a valued colleague is never easy. By managing the departure professionally, you are creating an opportunity to demonstrate generous leadership and also widening your circle of influence.

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