Resigning from work - 4 tips to avoid it becoming awkward

By Robert Half on 17 December 2019

What do you do when your star hire steps into your office and informs you they’re resigning from work?

Take a deep breath, accept their resignation letter graciously and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your empathy and professionalism.

If you’ve invested emotion and energy throughout the mentoring process, an employee resignation can often leave you feeling distraught.

However, bringing your feelings into the equation can breed poor staff morale and unnecessary awkwardness.

Here are four foolproof tips on how to handle an employee resigning from work.

1. Keep your emotions out of them resigning from work

Even if you’re on the verge of losing your star employee, it’s important not to fixate on the impending hole in your team. Remember, your staff member’s decision to change jobs says less about their relationship with you than it does about their long-term career strategy.

When confronted with an employee who is resigning from work, make sure you listen to their reasons for quitting and express that you’ll be sorry to see them leave. It’s imperative that you show professionalism and empathy rather than attempt to talk them out of it.

2. Map out a clear transition plan (notice period)

Failure to map out a clear transition plan and detail an employee’s obligations during their notice period is the fastest way to cross wires. Working relationships can get understandably awkward when a staff member shirks responsibilities in the lead-up to their last day.

That’s why sitting down and working out the details of their handover period – including training sessions with a replacement and projects that need to be finalised – is critical to a smooth resignation process.

An employee who resigns can sometimes feel less accountable, so it’s up to you to remind them that this isn’t the case.

3. Maintain open communication

If your employee is disgruntled or leaving because they’re dissatisfied with your workplace, have an honest conversation and extend an apology if you’ve clashed in the past. Remember, the last thing you want is your soon-to-be-former employee badmouthing your organisation or dragging down team morale.

Making an effort to smooth over past obstacles is central to keeping rapport amicable should your paths cross again.

4. Wish them well

Despite your personal views on your employee leaving, it’s critical that you thank them for their contribution. Make sure you wish them well. Whether that means organising a farewell function or facilitating a leaving present, thoughtful gestures can go a long way towards appeasing any anxiety while also leaving a positive last impression of their job.

Let them know you’re happy to act as a reference and, if possible, offer contacts and knowledge that might assist their job search or career path.

The resignation process is the perfect chance to prove you’re a manager invested in your staff’s future – not a boss obsessed with your bottom line.

Although staff resignations can be awkward, they can also be an opportunity to consolidate relationships and seek out growth. This is a great chance to conduct an exit interview with your departing employee and gain some feedback about the company.

Just remember that the best plan of attack always involves clear communication and an expression of support for future ventures.

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