Whoever said breaking up was the hardest thing to do has probably never had to sit through a truly awkward resignation. What if the manager refuses to accept the letter? Or proceeds to spread the news with a different reason to the rest of the team? I particularly love the hilarity of the boss reacting like a defensive ex.
There are even those who don’t react at all or proceed to ask the employee to leave immediately (as opposed to serving their notice period). Those who treat the employee in question as a traitor – sending security to watch them as they pack up their things and escort them out of the building. Your manager could even break down and plead with you to say.
It could really go either way which is what makes it so nerve-wracking.
At this rate, you’d probably be better of wondering why then are there seemingly more articles telling employees how to quit and be graceful about it compared to the articles for managers on how to accept a resignation graciously.
Wonder no more, for today, we’re tackling the latter.
Refer to your exit policy
When an employee officially resigns, they look to their managers to discuss next steps. This includes getting clued in on notice requirements, final paycheck distribution and to establish the last date of employment. Having a leaving policy in place will help you deal with the departure in a respectful and organised manner.
Be courteous and acknowledge it
After you receive a resignation email/ letter from an employee, it is vital for you to acknowledge it. This means sending an email or letter in return. In the reply, you should express regret that he/she has decided to leave, but you appreciate their hard work, respect and understand the difficult decision he/she had to make.
Mention that you have received the letter and accepted the resignation. You should also clearly state the official last day of employment.
React graciously (no matter how you feel)
Before we get into this, let me recap what I wrote in an article a few days ago. On the topic of what makes good people quit, I wrote, “people don’t necessarily leave their jobs or employers; they leave their managers.” This line alone would make it seem like the manager should take it personally, correct?
Alas, your reaction shouldn’t indicate so. It is vital that you maintain composure throughout. A good way to start is by saying that you’re sorry to see the employee go.
Ask for feedback and listen
Pride is a bitter pill for a lot of us to swallow. Especially when you’re in the manager’s seat and an underling is leaving. You’d be tempted to react in a way which can be summarised as, “I’m done with you, peasant.” Don’t do it, of course. Instead, this could be an opportunity for you to gain feedback and/or insight into your team dynamics and leadership style.
You could even schedule an exit interview. Ask the employee what could have been done differently or if there was anything in particular that made their time difficult. To get honest feedback, it is important to create a space for honest feedback. For this to work, choose your words carefully and mind your tone. Remember, you want to learn something from this situation to improve retention.
Self-reflect and be mindful
In potentially tense situations, it is important to take a deep breath and get in the right frame of mind before reacting. Remember, handling a resignation wrongly may come back to bite you later on. Word does get around exceptionally fast these days.
Alarm bells may be going off in your head (albeit too late) but on the outside, you’ve got to keep your head on straight. Don’t be tempted to lash out, plead, dismiss or guilt trip said, employee. It may have been just as difficult for them to make the decision and in this moment, they’re still looking at you to be an example.
Imagine how different the mood of the conversation or exchange would be if you accepted it calmly and proceed to react in a way that showed you still cared and valued their contributions so far? That’s what we’d call a real “win-win” situation.
See the bigger picture
At the end of the day, it is important to remember your role in all of this. Your task is to protect the employer brand, be supportive and leave room for an open and honest discussion. Approaching the topic with sensitivity is vital. Keep in mind that a resignation doesn’t only affect you and the employee who is leaving, it may impact your operations overall. How you convey the news to the rest of the gang is also a testament to your management style and how you value your people.