Updated: May 5
You may have heard about some awkward resignation stories. I have observed some first hand. After an employee resigns – unless they are marched out the door – there is often that month of limbo between tendering the resignation and their actual last day with the firm.
For a company or boss, this period presents an important test. Clearly, the employee has tendered their resignation for a reason: perhaps they’re unhappy in their current role (which is often related to dissatisfaction with their boss, their compensation or the nature of the work) or they believe that better opportunities exist elsewhere.
Whatever the reason, their decision deserves to be respected and both parties should create an environment that makes the transition as smooth as possible for everyone. Changing jobs can be a stressful, major life event for the individual; whatever complications a departure creates for the company, management should not make it worse by being difficult.
Here are six reasons to treat employees like gold after their resign:
1.You may be able to change their mind
In my experience, when an employee resigns, efforts to change their mind are often too little, too late…but not always. If you remain calm when they resign and later match the offer, they may well stay. If they want better career growth opportunities, discuss a pathway.
Even if they decline your overtures, you will get credit for making the offer and treating them with respect – potentially undoing any ill-will that led to them wanting to leave in the first place.
2. Other employees can see how those that leave are treated
The idea that making life difficult for employees when they leave will make others think twice before resigning is a false narrative. Rather, it will make that employee’s grievances – their potentially legitimate reasons for leaving – gain currency with others in the team. It will also breed resentfulness about the unfairness of the situation. Any complaints they have about the company or their boss are more likely to be ignored if there is little evidence to support those claims.
3. This is your opportunity to make the employee question their decision to leave
When someone resigns, they may be feeling some anxiety before the event, but a sense of relief after they have had the conversation with their line manager. Instead of being difficult, the better way to ensure they regret their decision is to be extremely reasonable about it afterwards. After they have resigned and calmed down, whatever grievances they had may seem overblown if the exit process is smoother than they were expecting.
4. Former employees become ambassadors for your company
Big companies spend time and money surveying their customers to find out who their net promoters are (as opposed to neutral customers or detractors) – those clients who actively promote the company’s products or services to others.
All companies can work to make departing employees net promoters – a person’s freshest memory of their time with a company will be their final weeks. If they were a great team member and they were generally happy, but they are leaving for a bigger opportunity, that person may well have be a ready-made net promoter; don’t turn them neutral or into a detractor by making their last month miserable.
5. They may be in a position to be your client…or your future boss
It’s a small world after all. After someone leaves, they may be in a position to make purchasing or hiring decisions that impact you or the company. Do you think they are inclined to do any favors to a company that made their final month working there miserable? Probably not! Creating a comfortable environment can be a wise decision that is in the best long-term financial interests of the firm. Indeed, a farewell lunch or parting gift could be a great investment.
5. You can uncover blind spots through a professional exit process
People are franker once in the departure lounge. In a previous job, I conducted exit interviews (on top of the formal HR process) with all employees, which was feasible in a 300-person company; it may not be for larger companies or those with high turnover, in which case division leads can handle it.
The purpose was to ask the individual their reason for leaving, to get feedback on their time with the company, to thank them for their contribution and to wish them the best.
Some outgoing staff would go through the motions and remain brief, but sometimes I would uncover information that would contribute to the company reducing employee turnover in the future. This process also sends the broader message that all employees are important.
When an employee leaves a company, it is often the right result for both parties: the individual is leaving for a good reason, while the company can learn from the situation and replace them with a better fit. In other cases, the employee is making a mistake; it may not be the company’s fault, and more for personal reasons or misconceptions.
If the employee is leaving a great company with excellent leadership, then it is their loss and finding a suitable replacement should be easy. Don’t waste time, energy or goodwill by making a fuss.
Let employees go with grace, and if you are really losing a great member of staff who you wish would stay, be sure to treat them like gold on their exit. When they realize the grass is not greener on the other side, they may well come back.