How to deal with employee resignations

Sylvia Pennington

You thought everything was going along swimmingly, and then suddenly an employee hands in a resignation.

After you’ve catastrophised privately for a bit – yes, it’s a blow to any small business owner when a good worker decides to call it quits but no, the sky is not falling – it’s time to sort out what needs to be done before they go.

Resolving to keep things nice until and beyond the moment they walk out the door for the last time will go a long way toward ensuring their last weeks with you are pleasant and productive.

Here are some tips to help you part well when employees decide it’s time to say adieu.

Don’t be bitter 

It’s acceptable to ask someone why they’re going and whether there’s anything you could do to help them change their mind. Taking their resignation personally and berating them for leaving you in the lurch, not so much. Keep your conversations calm and professional.

For savvy small business owners, honest feedback about your company and your performance as a leader is gold...

Talk straight

For savvy small business owners, honest feedback about your company and your performance as a leader is gold, but getting it from people who depend on you for their weekly pay packet can be a challenge. 

Soon-to-be-former employees have less to lose and may tell you something well worth knowing, if you’re big enough to listen, according to Ben Hutt, founder of online jobs site The Search Party. “While it might hurt at times, it will only make you a better leader and make the person leaving feel valued,” he says.

Sort the paperwork

Resignations typically involve pay-outs and paperwork. Having to hound you for their outstanding bonus or holiday pay after they’ve moved on won’t put you at the top of a former staffer’s Christmas card list. Make sure you’re both clear about what they’re owed and when they’ll receive it before they depart.

We often lack mentors at the start of our careers, so always be generous with your time.

Be generous

Not just by throwing in a good sized note for the parting present whip-round. Honest and helpful advice for their future may be valued even more, Hutt says.

“Share your experiences with starting a new job and moving around,” he advises. “We often lack mentors at the start of our careers, so always be generous with your time.”

Focus on the good times

If you’ve done your hiring right, then the person leaving will have been a quality worker who’s achieved some good things. “And if you’ve been a great employer, you’ve helped them get there, so celebrate that together,” Hutt says. 

Who knows when your paths will cross again – and even if they don’t, being remembered as a decent boss and human being, not a mean-spirited nut job, is something to strive for.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Image: Jeff Djevdet, Flickr Creative Commons license

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