Oh No! A Key Person is Resigning…

In the first quarter of 2022 over 4 million people per month quit their jobs and almost half of people confirm that they are looking for new jobs – ‘churn’ is going to be significant with a good jobs market being in place for good applicants, so the challenge of a good person resigning is likely to hit many businesses.

You might be surprised too and someone who you least expected to ‘call it a day’ with your business may be the one who comes with that resignation. It could be a key player in your team, someone with whom you really enjoy working and who has great potential in your business – how should you respond when this person gives their notice?

There are a number of things you certainly should NOT do:

  • Don’t take it personally
  • Don’t dismiss their new opportunity
  • Don’t make the individual feel guilty (it is THEIR career)

But what you most certainly SHOULD do is as follows – retaining your professionalism and giving you chance to take the news in….here are six tips…

Give yourself a minute to take in the news – you can show that you are surprised of course – that is natural – but do not ‘knee jerk’ with a reaction that you later regret and leaves the person with a poor impression of you and your business.

In this brief pause try to discern exactly what it is you are feeling. For example, in addition to surprise you might feel disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, hurt, deflated, let down or simply sad. There are many different types of negative emotion and picking out the specific emotion you’re feeling will help you create better self-awareness and enable you to deal with your feelings more effectively and as a result, respond more constructively.

Being unaware of these negative emotions they can trigger unconstructive, ‘knee jerk’ comments or actions that you will come to regret – lashing out, making sarcastic or snide comments. It is poor form to share that you feel betrayed or angry, even if that’s the case — discretion is always the better part of valour in these situations. That said if you are sad or disappointed, it’s fine to say, “I’m so sad you’re leaving, but it sounds like a great opportunity for you – we will miss you’’.

Remember, even if you could improve as a manager (and be honest we can all find ways in which we can do better), the person’s departure is not a statement about your personal value or how good you are as a person. Put your ego to the side and rise above any strong or harsh feelings you may have. The individual might be leaving for a better opportunity, better compensation, personal reasons, or all of the above. The best career development path for them may be to leave the business and get experience elsewhere. It is their career, so respect that they made the best choice for themselves, their career, and/or their family, which is the same anyone would expect you to do for yourself. They are showing loyalty to themselves — not disloyalty to you.

Show genuine interest and curiosity to learn why they’re leaving and what they’re going to do next. What can you learn that would benefit you, your business and other employees for the future? You might ask, “What could we do to entice you to stay?” At that point in time, the answer may be nothing since they’ve likely accepted another position. But when someone gives you notice while telling you that a competitor was willing to bring them in at a more senior level with much higher compensation — you should look at your own business – should this person have been upgraded? If not, why not? If the answer is ‘’no, they are not ready’’ resist the temptation to upgrade just because of the resignation – don’t lower your standards to accommodate a leaver. It is a different case if you were just about to promote them – the counter-offer may retain them – but always be objective.

Do ask questions though in all cases – for example “What else could we have done to keep you?” or “What appeals to you or excites you most about this new job?” Their response may be related to better work/life balance, the ability to work remotely, a more inclusive culture, a new and exciting challenge with more responsibility, or being more empowered to make decisions. This is all useful feedback for you and the business so that these areas can be addressed for remaining and future employees, even if it’s too late to do anything about it for this individual.

Maintaining positive working relationships with departing employees is important, well beyond the time that you actually work together, so show your support for their decision and enable them to leave on a good note. After all, you may need a positive reference from them one day.

Further, as a former employee, they are still a brand ambassador for the company and may be a future customer, client, or referral source for business and other employees. By showing support and enthusiasm for their new opportunity, as disappointed as you may be, you are more likely to keep the door open for them to potentially return to the business one day. So, celebrate their contributions and their next endeavour and ask them how you can be helpful to them as they start their new role.

When an individual gives notice, they will likely have a desired end date in mind. After all, they will probably want to take a break before diving into a new job. Get an understanding on what they need and tell them what you need from them before they leave to ensure a smooth transition. It may involve some ‘give and take’ and could include finishing a specific project or set of tasks, training others to take over these responsibilities to minimise disruption, or even helping in hiring their replacement.

Summing Up
Remember someone giving notice isn’t the end of the world or necessarily the end of a relationship. As surprised as you may be, using the six approaches above can help you respond constructively and builds the relationship and assists all parties to move on in a positive way.

If you need some support handling one of your key people leaving, or better still showing you how to retain more of your good people, get in touch with us at ignite@tinderboxbusinessdevelopment.co.uk or call us on 0116 232 5231.

Also have a look at our online learning platform provided by our sister company where you can find useful business tools, courses, articles, access to Experts and more.

Click here to access The Box Academy and see for yourself, you can join for free and if you like what you see, join as a full member giving your people access to a huge amount of learning and development material.

The Tinderbox Team