What would you do, and how would you react if you received a resignation this afternoon?
And, to make things interesting, let’s assume the resignee is a valued person on your team – a team
stressed to the point where the added pressures of losing another team member will lead to increases in mistakes, waste, and further shipping delays. Finally, let’s also assume that the resignee tells you their last day is the end of the week, and it’s already Wednesday (because the traditional two-week notice is dead).
You may ask him or her why s/he is leaving. You may try to find out what would make him or her stay, and you might even offer a bump in pay to salvage the situation and the relationship. But statistically, the odds of reversing a person’s decision to leave is not in your favor.
As disappointed and angry as you may be at the situation, your best strategy – your best reaction – will be to take the high road by shaking hands and wishing the departing employee well. If you’re wondering why, let me explain.
First, keep in mind that oftentimes lasting impressions are more important than first impressions. Accept that the employee is already mentally and emotionally checked out, enthusiastic about either moving on to a new opportunity or taking time off. Your reaction as the president, CEO, or manager will significantly influence the quality of the resignee’s performance up until his or her last moment of employment.
If you turn into a block of ice out of resentment, s/he may leave on the spot. However, if you offer to take him or her out to lunch to end your relationship on a positive note while putting aside any differences you may have had, good karma will find you. (Read my article on Exit Interviews.)
The fact is that how you part ways with any employee will speak volumes about your character, which you’ll need to preserve and protect. Even if the relationship was contentious, it doesn’t matter who was right or who was wrong. Unfortunately, employers never get to tell their sides to any stories ex-employees share online or with their peers.
Second, if you placed a lot of value in the departing employee’s skills, reliability, leadership, etc., let it be known that if things don’t turn out as expected on the other side that they would be eligible for rehire if a position is available. In other words, if the grass isn’t greener somewhere else, s/he will have the option to “boomerang.”
Boomerang employees are often more valuable than before they left. They’ve explored, learned, and tried new things. As a result, they come back with fresh perspectives and knowledge that could be nothing but beneficial in so many ways.
Third, if you had a healthy relationship with the employee, a resignation isn’t necessarily personal – it’s business. The employer/employee covenant isn’t a marriage, after all. Many other influences lead to resignations for reasons not attributed to individual employers. Respecting people’s decisions to move on is a sign of a strong, confident leader.
And fourth, it just may be that the reason for the employee’s resignation is attributable to a known issue at your company, whether it is a dysfunctional culture, poor compensation, instability, lack of growth or opportunity, or even something so unexpected as unsanitary or unsafe working conditions. (I’ve known of employees resigning because the production floor’s restroom was, as one employee described, “always so putrid.”) If any of these are the case, you know where to point the blame.
Although it may be challenging, employers need to start thinking of employees with the same mindset as they do with customers, especially when good people are hard to find.
After all, you wouldn’t burn a bridge with a customer, so why would you burn a bridge with an employee by not taking the high road when they decide to move on?
Use resignations as a learning experience to improve what you can to become a better employer tomorrow than you are today.