If you have been managing people for a while, this is probably nothing new to you. The reality is, people come and go. This can be because you decided it´s not a good (enough) fit or they are not performing or because the employee wants to pursue other challenges elsewhere. At some point, people might leave the team. Most of these times, the resignations will be quite unexpected news, unless you have been receiving clear signs an employee is unhappy. However, there are a few things as a manager you should keep in mind on how to react to this unexpected news.
Here are 5 things you should not do when an employee tells you he or she is quitting:
- Do nothing
No matter how you feel about this news, you should never just say “Ok” and move on with your day. Always have a conversation. For example, acknowledge what they just told you, ask if they can share where they are going, congratulate them on this opportunity and express some sort of regret that he or she is leaving the team. After that, make sure to cover the more practical topics: what are the next steps, what logistics need to be taken care of, when are you announcing this to the rest of the team etc. Make sure you treat the leaving employee well, because also the rest of your team will hear about how you handled this. You don´t want to hurt your reputation as a manager by not doing anything!
- Take it personally
There can be plenty of reasons why the employee might have taken this decision. It could be they want something new or different, better conditions, changing family circumstances, or it could be you. They might not like working for you. Whatever the reason, don´t take it personally when they make the announcement to you. If your company is conducting exit interviews (and you should!), you will find out what the reason is. If it happens to be your management style, see if you can learn something from it or if it is something that doesn´t seem to make any sense, just forget about it.
- Get defensive
This one is related to taking it personally, you should never get defensive when an employee tells you he or she is quitting. The worst you can say is something that implies that if they wouldn´t have made the decision, they would be fired anyway. Or making some nasty comment like “Well, we all knew you didn´t have a great future in this team anyway”. Act as a grown-up and think about your reputation as a people manager. Because let´s face it, these types of comments will definitely be shared with the rest of the team during one of the many goodbye coffees!
- Act as if you´re relieved
Even if you feel like it´s better that this employee is leaving, never show these emotions. Don´t act as if you´re relieved, not to the employee but definitely not to other people in the department either. Stay professional and don´t make other team members wonder if you also talk like that about them behind their back. Express your joy after work with your friends of your spouse but never show it to colleagues.
- Play games
Don´t ask the employee to keep things quiet until you can manage to get your story straight or think about solutions. They have probably already told some of their peers already so it will only make you look ridiculous if you need to ask them to engage in politics.
What other things do you think you should never do when an employee quits?