“I Quit!” What to Do When an Employee Resigns
It is going to happen eventually: An employee is going to quit. Sometimes, it seemingly comes out of nowhere. Other times, you suspect that a resignation is coming soon, based on the person’s overall attitude and performance.
Regardless of the circumstances, though, how you handle the resignation as a manager can make a significant difference in how your team functions once the employee has left. Not to mention, your actions can have significant legal, security, and morale implications, so knowing what to do and when is important.
Phase 1: Accepting Notice
Rarely does an employee simply announce “I quit!” and leave the building in a blaze of glory. Anyone who values his or her career and wants to leave on good terms is going to give the appropriate notice.
When that happens, you have two options:
- Accept the resignation, and develop a plan for the employee to fulfill his or responsibilities over the next two to three weeks.
- Accept the resignation, and end employment immediately. Usually, the latter option is reserved for employees who have performance or other issues, and keeping him or her on staff any longer is only going to hurt morale or cause other problems.
In either case, request written notice of the resignation in addition to the verbal notice. Written notice will protect the company from claims of wrongful termination, unemployment compensation, or other claims of improper behavior.
Resist the temptation to make a counteroffer or otherwise tempt an employee to stay if he or she is leaving for another company. Chances are, when someone has made the decision to leave, they are already committed to the chance and a counteroffer is only going to muddy the waters. Not to mention, it sets a precedent for other employees to seek other opportunities as a means to get a raise or other benefits, which will only breed resentment.
Phase 2: Develop a Communication Plan
Because an employee’s resignation affects the entire team, it is important to handle communication about the change appropriately. Before the resigning employee leaves your office, come up with a communication plan to notify his or her co-workers, clients, and other interested parties. Decide whether you or the employee will make the announcement, when, and how much detail you will provide. It is likely that some or all of your team will have some knowledge of the employee’s plans, but give them the courtesy of making an official announcement.
Phase 3: Address the Transition
Once the news is out in the open, your remaining team members will most likely have concerns about who will handle the departing employee’s workload and the timeline for hiring someone new. It is unlikely that you will be able to hire a replacement in a few weeks, so develop a plan for handing off the work to other employees.
Ask the person leaving for a rundown of all of his or her projects and their status, as well as deadlines, and key contact information. You should also take an inventory of the employee’s skills and knowledge to ensure that the handoff goes smoothly. For example, if the resigning employee is the only person who knows how to use a particular computer program or is the only person who manages a specific task, schedule time for him or her to train someone else to complete the job. If necessary, and a manual does not already exist, a written guidebook with detailed instructions can go a long way to maintaining order once the employee leaves.
Phase 4: Paperwork
In most cases, when an employee resigns, you will need to notify HR in order to begin the process of terminating employment. This may include:
- Scheduling an exit interview. In some organizations, someone other than the direct supervisor conducts this interview so the employee can feel more comfortable being honest.
- Determining pay issues. You may need to submit information to payroll regarding unused vacation and sick time, termination dates, and other payment requirements. You may also need to sign paperwork related to COBRA or retirement plans.
- Addressing security issues. When an employee leaves, it is important to collect security passes, change passwords, and restrict access to any sensitive information that he or she may have used on the job. Ex-employees actually represent a significant security risk to most companies, so be sure to close all of those loopholes to prevent even an accidental data breach.
- Collecting equipment. If the employee was issued a laptop, phone, or other equipment, collect it on his or her last day in the office. If he or she used a personal device for work, take steps to restrict access to company information from that device.
Phase 5: Saying Goodbye
It is up to you how you want to handle the employee’s last day on the job. Many companies host a goodbye lunch, gathering in the breakroom, or goodbye party at a nearby restaurant when a valued employee leaves. Even if you do not do something formal, make a point of saying goodbye to the employee and wishing him or her well.
Losing a member of your team can be stressful, but if you follow the right procedures, the transition can be a smooth one and your employee will leave on good terms.