Handling an Employee Resignation You Didn’t See Coming

Turnover is inevitable no matter how great your organization is to work for. When it happens, you want to have an appropriate response.

Utility leaders must be prepared for some employee turnover. Sooner or later, you’re bound to have an employee who leaves the organization, whether due to changes in their home life or simply because they found a better position elsewhere.

Even so, when an employee announces their resignation, it can often leave you feeling blindsided and unsure about how to proceed. What’s the right way to respond? How can you ensure this employee’s duties are covered, without overburdening the other members of your team?

Avoid bad blood

First things first: A surprise employee resignation can be a blow to your psyche. You may feel angry, shocked, or sad, especially if you felt like you and the employee had a good working relationship or a close interpersonal rapport.

It’s OK to feel these things, but as a general rule, it's best not to emote. Try to keep those feelings to yourself and engage the employee in a warm, friendly conversation about their future plans. Avoid burning bridges. You never know when you and the employee may cross paths again.

Request a rationale

You can always ask the employee why they are leaving. Often, the reason will be because they got a better offer elsewhere. But in some cases, you may be able to work out an alternative agreement. For example, if the employee just needs more flexibility to care for an aging parent, you could work out a more flexible schedule with them, or keep them on a part-time basis.

And if the employee is leaving because their spouse got a new job that requires the family to move, for example, that can at least help you lay to rest any frustrations or any concerns that the employee is leaving on bad terms.

Plan your communication

Make sure you and the employee discuss how you will share the news with the rest of the team. What will they tell their peers? What do they want you to say? Does the employee want you to send out an email to the crew, announce it at the next team huddle, or allow them to share the news with their colleagues one-on-one?

Transfer knowledge

However you share the news with your other team members, it’s important to acknowledge that there will be some growing pains and that some employees may feel a little overburdened for a while. Stress that you’ll find a replacement as soon as possible.

Also, use this departure as a time to chat with remaining employees about their own goals. Perhaps some of them are prepared to step up and take on new responsibilities. If so, be diligent in having your departing employee transfer as much knowledge as possible before their exit date.

Throw a party

Turn the employee’s final day into a celebration, even if it’s something as simple as a cake or a box of donuts in the break room. Reward them for their hard work, but also provide your other employees with a chance to say goodbye and to enter the next phase on a high note. 

These tips won’t necessarily erase the complications of a surprise resignation, but they can create a road map as you move forward.

About the author: Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at www.grammarchic.net.


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