So your top employee has resigned. Now what?

When one of your best employees quits his job, expect that some people in your team will be all eyes and ears about how you would react.  Some of them might also reflexively wonder if they themselves should get their traveling bags ready to seek for greener pastures.  Or some may start to think if there’s anything wrong with the company. Others may get over the news quickly enough, but it still pays to handle sensitive matters such as these with care. Resignations from an employee, especially from someone who has positively contributed to the company, will usually be a downer for your other employees. Sequioa Capital founder Don Valentine says over at the RingCentral blog that “Disruptions can sneak up on you or any other company.”  Any company must be prepared for any change that can impact their operations. Here are some things to keep in mind if a top employee hands in his resignation papers:

Accept and reflect 

star employee resigns

Many employees resign because of management issues.  This is why it’s hard for some managers not to take resignations personally; the real reason for leaving might  be the managers themselves!  Of course an employee will usually never tell you right in your face that you or the company sucks, all in the name of not burning bridges. But you can find out the real reason by allowing the employee to talk freely about his reasons for leaving and reading between the lines. It may be a concern you can do something about to prevent future attrition – like bullying from other colleagues, salary issues, personal issues, stress, or others. Don’t throw a fit; rather, accept the resignation gracefully and do some self-reflection. Is there merit to his reasons for leaving? Is there anything you can do to improve company policies or your management style, so you can keep your other valuable employees?

Explore the merits of a counter-offer

There are several risks associated with making a counter-offer. A top performer who has resigned has probably already weighed the pros and cons of leaving.  However, Lance Haun over at TLNT says that counter-offers can work if they are done right.  You should be selective about who to give counter-offers to and let some of them go without a fight, since counter-offers could be used by some employees as a strategy to ask for a salary increase.  Counter-offers are not a retention technique or salary negotiation tool. However, they are a last ditch effort to keep employees if the costs of them leaving are greater than allowing someone else to take the reins. You need to factor in what the impact will be on your team if the person leaves, how employee will be affected if the counter-offer is accepted (the loyalty of the employee who resigned might come in question), and all the non-monetary costs the employee will be taking with him if he leaves (product knowledge, strategies, etc.). That said, be prepared for your employee not to accept your counter-offer.  Best policy is to identify and prevent possible problems even before your valuable employees resign. Also, make sure that your senior employees are mentoring other employees, so your company won’t be crippled if someone leaves.

Show your support

A good company will support and wish its employees well, especially if they know that these employees will be leaving for better opportunities.  Don’t hesitate to give your recommendations and referrals if the employee deserves it.

Stay positive when you communicate the news

Of course, top management and other employees would have to be informed about important changes such as these.  Show respect and be positive.  Acknowledge the loss for the company and convey your appreciation for the employee’s efforts. Let your employee say his parting words and immediately get into action to put your team into transition.

Manage the transition phase

Never leave other employees hanging, especially when it’s about what they’re supposed to do next when a teammate leaves. Let the departing employee work with his colleagues and allow those left to volunteer for tasks. Don’t overload the employee on his last two weeks on the job, so he can efficiently help you with the transition phase.

All in all, it’s important that you handle changes such as this with grace.  Have you ever had to handle a resignation from a top performer?  Or have you ever had to resign from a job?  How did the company handle your resignation?  Share your comments and experiences below.

Read more: Ways to Ensure You Don’t Lose Customers When a Valuable Employee Leaves