By: Leigh Olsen, Director, Tradie HR, August 2019   

How many of you know of people who have been “written off’” by their employers after handing in their notice?  Ever heard the expression “they are dead to me now?” Maybe this has happened to you.  I remember resigning from a role, and I was almost instantaneously excluded from well just about everything.  No longer invited to meetings, no longer a part of the project team that I had helped set up, no longer asked for my opinion or even asked to lunch.  I had suddenly ceased to exist. All those years of service conveniently forgotten and why? All because I had chosen to move to another company.  


Why do people leave a business? 

They may want a career change, go studying, head off overseas, leave for personal reasons or maybe they have just found something better.  Whatever the reason, your reaction to their resignation is important. Why? Because your credibility as a leader or Manager depends on it. People (inside and outside your business) will be watching to see how you handle the resignation.  Handle it well and you may be commended, handle it poorly and you will be criticised. Sounds harsh but unfortunately, research has shown this to be true.  

Recently I spoke to a project manager who had given in his notice to join one of my clients.  Nothing unusual as people resign from companies every day. What was unusual about this case is that his company technically suspended him whilst they “thought” about his resignation.  This action – completely unlawful, completely unreasonable and just plain wrong. This man was made to feel like he had committed a criminal act. What it did do, he told me was to reinforce his decision to leave.

How do you behave?

Let’s face it though resignations can be upsetting and troubling, especially when they come out of the blue.  You may be left wondering how can I stop them from leaving, asking yourself why are they leaving and then thinking how am I going to replace them?  It can be a lot to take in.    

Here are a few of the things below that may help to bring a sense of calm and order to a potentially challenging situation.

  1. Focus on responding and not reacting.  Take a deep breath and take some time to consider the resignation.  Don’t take too much time though – I knew of one manager who took five days to respond which is bordering on rudeness.  
  2. Acknowledge their resignation.  If the employee has emailed you or they have resigned via text – please pick up the phone or better still if you can, go and see them.  A personal touch is best here as it shows the employee that you care. It is advisable to follow the call or visit in writing with an official acknowledgment of their resignation.
  3. Work with them:  Talk to your employee to find out what they want to do in the notice period.  What message would they like you to say about their pending departure with the team, their colleague, the wider business?  The more you can include their wishes at this time, the better. Digging your toes in and wanting to get them out of the business as soon as possible will just add more stress to the situation and remember people are watching.

 

What about if they are going to a competitor?

I’m often asked what do I do if my employee is going to a competitor?  Now there maybe situations where yes it makes sense (due to sensitive company information) that it might not be appropriate for them to attend that strategy day, or a particular event but please talk to them first and explain why before removing their name from any list, invitation or meeting.

Most people understand and often I have found that employees who are departing are really accommodating at this time and don’t want to rock the boat.  A lot of people are nervous about resigning, worried their boss will react poorly and treat them differently. A lot don’t want any fuss and just want to work out their notice period as normal.

For those that have had employees behave inappropriately in their notice period, I have found that talking to them, gently reminding them they are still an employee with responsibilities and reinforcing their value to the team/company is often enough to bring about a change in behaviour.  

  

A gracious send off.

Sending off a departing employee (no matter how long they have worked for you) with an appropriate farewell that they are comfortable with, is in my opinion important.  The reasons for this are:

  • It creates a nice lasting impression for your employee
  • They are recognised for their contributions 
  • Their colleagues get an opportunity to show their appreciation
  • It reinforces a culture of ‘we care’ for our people
  • It is morally and ethically right

Allowing an employee to exit a business with grace and dignity, should be the norm and not the exception.  We at Tradie HR help business owners and managers navigate their way through such exits because we know your departing employees are walking advertisements for what it is like to work at your company – and we want that to be a great piece of PR!