When someone leaves your team

When an employee is on notice, after resigning, he or she needs to be treated with respect and dignity. To despise them due to the decision to leave the company is as useless as the “g” in the lasagna. Why must we stand in the way of their happiness more often than not?

Maybe not all do this, but I have seen it quite often and I can say in many companies some sort of stigma is silently applied to those that decide to leave. Managers, because they are frustrated of not being able to stop that person from quitting, are trying to make them feel bad about their decision. One way to do that would be appealing to feelings of guilt and predicting a “grey” future for that person on their next job. Some of the more sneaky managers, knowing their employees’ soft spots and self-awareness issues, they shamelessly appeal to these in order to make the employee feel bad about their decision and shake a bit their self-confidence. This is quite cruel and damaging to one’s image and also to the company’s image (as the manager is an informal brand ambassador).

As a manager, if many people leave your team with the impression that you were trying to get your revenge by making them feel bad, then you are not very good at the “managing” part. Serving your own interests and schemes never pays off, regardless how much you are trying to  convince yourself that this whole plan is “to their own good”.

So, what is the best course of action when someone in your team decides to leave?

Discuss with them and see what are the reasons behind this decision
At first, you will be tempted to blurt all sorts of questions to them, especially if the news of resignation takes you by surprise. You want to ask “but why? What happened that makes you leave? Why are you doing this to me?” . Well, although it is understandable, try to restrain yourself from that and just have a normal discussion about what are their career plans and how this decision will help that person. If you start by asking those questions, the person will shut down and will take it as an attack and will not tell you anything.
If you want and can retain the employee, then see what needs he/she has and if you can satisfy them, then make a counteroffer. If you cannot give them what they need, then it is best to not try and convince them to change their mind, as this will not last. Once the decision of leaving has been taken…it will always be there, in the back of the mind.

Don’t ask them to keep it confidential – sooner or later, people will find out
This will only create more rumors and discussions about it. People will think there is something to hide and the employee that resigned will feel bad to not tell their peers. In most of the cases, you can be sure that they already knew of their colleague’s decision to quit, long before you received the papers. Therefore, the way you communicate this to the team, speaks volumes about you as a manager.

Hand-over and notice
Make sure that there is a hand-over plan in place and that you discuss with the team and inform them of how the resignation of their colleague, impacts them on the workload side. Reassure the team that you are looking for a replacement.
There is also another issue, if for example, the employee that is leaving is the only one with knowledge about a certain aspect of the work. You need to make sure there is a knowledge transfer and that they don’t leave without sharing the details about that product or software, or legal provisions with the remaining members of the team.
The manager needs to sit with the employee and put together a clear plan for the knowledge transfer and agree on deadlines.

No hard feelings
In the end, you need to accept the decision that the employee took, and wish them all the best. Regardless their reasons, after all it is business and taking it personally it doesn’t help anyone.
There are situations in which an employee leaves in bad terms and you should still try to make an effort to be the better person and still wish them well, although you feel like kicking them! (of course, it depends on the severity of the situation).

Managers tend to take resignations personally, as it is said that “people leave their manager and not the company”. This is not true at all times. There are situations in which employees like their manager very much and they enjoy working with them, but the company will not allow a salary increase or an internal development opportunity, therefore they decide to look outside the company.

You need to keep in mind the fact that people come and go all the time in companies, and to try to accept that. You cannot control other people’s decisions any more than you can control the weather, and as soon as you cope with that, the better for your own mental health.