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What Should You Do When An Employee Quits

An employee leaving doesn’t have to be the end of the world or the end of your relationship. How you respond can have a much longer-term effect than you might think.  

With over a third of workers likely to move jobs in the next 12 months, someone on your team might leave in the near term. And it may not be the person you thought it would be — or hoped it would be. It could come as a total surprise to you and they could be a key contributor to your team, someone with whom you enjoy working with and who has great potential in your organisation. So, how do you respond when this person gives their notice?

Firstly, there are several things you should not do — like take it personally, belittle their new opportunity, or give them a guilt trip (among others) — however, there are six key steps to ensuring that you respond constructively and professionally while processing the surprising news.

Take A Breath

First, take a moment to digest the news. It’s okay to show you’re surprised or to say something like, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.” The last thing you want to do is react impulsively and say something you might regret that would leave the individual with a negative impression of you and your company.

How the employee has submitted their resignation can impact how well you can compartmentalise the news. If they have resigned over the phone or by email, you have more opportunity to control your reaction than if they have resigned face to face.

Get Organised

Once you have received the resignation, it is important to get organised and show your support. 

We recommend that you set a meeting for either later in the day or the next day. This gives you time to get organised and potentially put together a counter offer that can be offered at the meeting. During this time you might also take the opportunity to prepare so that you don’t give a negative impression of your company. 

The Meeting

In the meeting, you will both have the opportunity to ask relevant questions. For you, as the employer, show genuine interest and curiosity to learn why your employee is leaving and what they’re going to move on to next. This could be for any number of reasons, such as a better opportunity, better compensation, personal reasons or a combination of all of these. 

You might ask, “What could we do to entice you to stay?” Now, the answer may be nothing since they’ve likely accepted another position, don’t be disheartened if there isn’t anything. But the information that they might give you could help you change their mind or retain staff in the future.

At this stage, you could use the information you have learned to counter-offer if you are able and willing. If you feel that you are unable to match to better what they have been offered, you simply don’t want to counter-offer or they decline your counter-offer then you need to begin planning for the next stage.

Ask For What You Need 

If the employee rejects your counter-offer and still wants to leave, then they likely have an end date in mind that coincides with the notice period in their contract. This doesn’t mean that you can’t set your expectations for their notice period to ensure a smooth transition. Once you have agreed on the end date and the mutual expectations until they do leave, you should show your support for their decision. 

Maintaining a positive working relationship with departing employees is important, so show your support for their decision and enable them to leave on a good note. After all, they might look to return to your company in the future as well as be an excellent company ambassador.

Time To Plan

Now that you have established that the employee is definitely leaving, it is time to plan. Your first thought might be to reach out to your favourite recruiter, surely Halliday Marx !! However, your search might be impacted by two factors. First, candidates are likely to have a similar notice period that matches with your employees ie. one, two or three month notices, meaning that by the time your recruitment process is completed, there will be no opportunity for a proper handover. Secondly, this provides you with an opportunity to review and update the job specification to meet your business needs.

Interim or Permanent Hiring

Instead of diving head-first into searching for a permanent replacement, have you explored the benefits of hiring an interim member of staff?

Hiring an interim employee gives you three key benefits. The first is that your leaving employee can hand over to the interim before leaving, secondly, they can be in the role quickly. Thirdly, they give you time to complete your recruitment process and find the right fit for your company. Once you have made a permanent hire, the interim employee can then hand over the responsibilities to your new employee to minimise disruption… Or…don’t forget there is always the option to make your interim hire permanent.

If you have had an employee resign, then talk to the team at Halliday Marx. We can advise you on the best way to fill the hole in your team on a short-term or permanent basis. 

Someone handing in their resignation doesn’t have to be the end of the world or your working relationship. As surprised as you might be, using the six steps above can help you respond constructively and help you move forward positively.


If you would like any more advice on this topic or if you’re looking for your next role, please get in touch with our specialist team today on 020 7096 8200 or email us at [email protected]

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