Strategies & Tactics

Hard to Say Goodbye: How to Manage the Departure of a Well-Liked Employee

January 3, 2019

[phil ashley/stone]
[phil ashley/stone]

As a manager, how you handle the resignation of a well-liked employee will influence whether that person’s departure becomes an isolated incident or starts a downward trend for your team.

In a recent Harvard Business Review piece, contributor Liane Davey suggests processing your own reaction before sharing the news. If you move too quickly and try to communicate a positive message while still harboring anxiety, frustration or bitterness, then those emotions will show in your body language.

Once you’ve reflected on your own reaction and shared the news, don’t minimize the moment. Throw a party to wish the person well. Say a few words about what he or she has done for the team. To show your appreciation and strengthen the bond among those who remain, laugh about your shared experiences.

After the party, ask the departing employee what you can learn from his or her decision. Even if your organization has a formal process for exit interviews, conduct your own. Ask generic rather than personal questions, so the departing employee will feel more inclined to share any uncomfortable truths. Be ready to take lumps.

Take a night to sleep on the feedback you receive, and then share your conclusions with your team. Ask for their insights. Notice when their language suggests frustration (“We always do this” or “We never do that”) or powerlessness (“I think sometimes we might …”). Listen closely. Be open about what you can do differently. — Greg Beaubien


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