Ken Burgin

Reducing the Drama When Staff Resign

Had someone quit unexpectedly? It’s costly, especially if they hold an important position.

A colleague found out her operations manager was planning to leave, when the news slipped out accidently. She moved fast to cover the gap, and reflecting on it later, said: Part of the problem is that most staff don’t know how to resign or handle these situations professionally

Sound familiar? No-one wants good staff leaving, ever, but if it’s going to happen, let’s make sure it’s organised and with plenty of notice. They’re more likely to do it the right way if they know what you want.

Your pain-reduction planning includes:

  • Explain the right way to resign. It may be in the Staff Manual somewhere, but even better if it’s also on the noticeboard. ‘If you are planning to resign, permanent staff are expected to give 4 weeks notice. For casual or hourly staff, we request one week’s notice, or longer if possible. We don’t want to see you go, but if a change is happening, we will work with you to make it smooth and trouble-free for everyone involved.’
  • Regular reviews can pick up issues well in advance. Whether it’s a Performance Review or a regular ‘how’s it going’ chat, open conversation with employees gives them the space for honesty and sharing their plans. When was the last time this happened? Even a Quick Performance Review Form will open up the conversation.
  • Make it easy to quit properly. If they’re going, nothing will usually stop them, so facilitate it with a simple Resignation Form that sets out expectations and covers all the bases eg return of uniform, final pay etc. You can still keep control of the process.
  • Be ready with a Statement of Service. Many businesses now offer only a short statement with start and finish dates, not a full reference. Whatever you provide, make sure the policy is clearly stated.
  • Show a neutral reaction to staff. They all know it’s happened, and some may know the ‘real reasons’, if there’s something that’s not been said. Whether you’re hurt, annoyed or even relieved, now’s the time for a ‘stiff upper lip’. Difficult at times.
  • Keep talking about ‘succession planning’. Jargon or not, every job needs someone else covering it, who can step in and handle it permanently or for the interim. There are also ‘quitting seasons’ eg return to college or university – mark your calendar well in advance. The calmest managers and owners have Plan B in place for every position. Your managers and supervisors can all be involved in the planning process – there will be some interesting conversations!
  • Ask the manager responsible for an explanation. Was the wrong type of person put into the position, making failure inevitable? Is the job too boring, too hard or too complex? Was the training rushed or inadequate? Is change at management level needed to avoid a repetition?
  • What’s not working in the business? I remember uncovering some nasty harassment after two young men resigned ‘because it’s time to move on’. Neither ever gave the real reason, but suspicions were aroused and we eventually found the cause. In hindsight, I should have seen the signs much earlier – how good is your ‘intelligence network’ for issues like this?
  • If there’s no respect for the business, why not? If you have people resigning with one day (or one minute) notice, something is wrong. How did it come to this? Who chose these people and who failed to pick up the signals. Their direct supervisors usually know if there’s a change happening – why wasn’t it communicated?

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