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What To Do When Your Subordinate Resigns From Their Job

When a key member of your team resigns, especially unexpectedly, it can be a stressful period.

Not only are you under pressure to fill the position with someone better or at least equally qualified, but departures also run the risk of causing morale issues on teams that become even further stretched with the added responsibilities in the interim. While resignations are a normal part of any organisation, handling them professionally and appropriately is key.

Here’s what to do:

1. Acknowledge the resignation

As soon as you receive a resignation from an employee (formal or informal), acknowledge the resignation in accordance with company policy so that everyone is on the same page. If applicable, decide together with your boss and HR Manager if this is an employee that you would like to try retaining if possible. Otherwise, initiate the handover process and confirm the notice period, so that HR can start developing a hiring plan to replace the employee.

2. Be empathetic

As the supervisor, your receptiveness and understanding are critical to keeping an open dialogue and avoiding any unnecessary unpleasantness. Remember to be fair, giving credit where it is due and praising your soon-to-leave team member for their accomplishments. Tip: The less painful and comfortable you make the resignation process, the more you will strengthen your employee’s perception of you as a great leader too.


3. Listen to their reason for leaving

Don’t take the resignation personally. Instead, retain your relationship with the employee by engaging in a friendly conversation about future plans. Understanding employee departures can be a crucial step towards making your company a great place to work and gives you a good opportunity to understand how to make things better for employees if possible. If they’re choosing to leave for a more desirable compensation package, it’s a chance to compare your company’s value proposition and see if it is competitive with rival companies. Likewise, if the decision to leave is driven by a growth opportunity or are just unhappy in their position, consider whether you are providing a nurturing work environment with growth opportunities.

4. Try negotiating

Whether or not to make a counter offer comes down to how important this person is to the team and how much they contribute to the organisation. If you think that it’s worth fighting to keep this employee around, then give it your best shot. After listening to their reason for leaving, offer alternatives that are mutually suitable. Sometimes an increase in salary is all that it takes; sometimes it’s an opportunity for growth and more responsibility; and sometimes it can be about improving the work-life balance. Whatever the reason, if you think that the employee is worth going that extra mile to retain, then give it everything you can to try and convince them to stay.

5. Collaborate, communicate and honour their achievements

You can’t control how the rest of the team reacts to someone leaving, but you can help control how it gets communicated. Mutually agree with your exiting employee about how he / she would like the news communicated. Ie. should it be via email; does the employee prefer to let people know one-on-one; or should it be announced in a team meeting; etc.  At the same time, celebrate your employee’s contributions to your business, all the successes they have had and their contributions to the team.


6.  Implement a hiring plan

Depending on the position that is being left open, coordinate with HR to formally list the job opening as soon as possible so that it assures the remaining team that this is a temporary phase and that everything is being done to fill the position. Make it an inclusive move by asking team members for input on what skills, experience and qualities they would like to find in the new hire, and if they know anyone who might be a good fit. Likewise, this might also be a good time for an internal promotion, so frame the resignation as an opportunity for remaining team members to grow and take on new responsibilities and challenges. Either way, now is the time to start transferring knowledge and to ensure a comprehensive handover so that nothing falls between the cracks.

7. Conduct an exit interview

Exit interviews are usually mandatory company policies, but be wary that people sometimes are not honest about their feelings as they don’t want to be ‘blacklisted’ for future re-hiring, so might not be as open about their responses as you would like them to be. Depending on your relationship with your exiting employee, ascertain how much time to spend on the exit interview. And then keeping a log of the exit interview responses will help in identifying HR issues and hopefully reduce future attrition rates.

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