It’s Monday morning, and one of your best people just resigned. What do you do next? The choices you make in the next few days will either make things a whole lot better for you, or much, much worse.
At the “moment of impact” you must dig deep, and summon up every bit of graciousness you can muster. You simply must take the high road. Congratulate them on their new opportunity, work hard at being happy for them. You can even take a little bit of credit for helping them advance their career. But whatever you do, don’t be a jerk.Remember, every other employee in your organization will be watching you very carefully for the next month. Stay classy. Don’t bad-mouth either the person leaving or their new employer. If you sink into pettiness or act devastated, all your other employees will lose confidence in you.
Every time a top performer resigns, all your other employees will reflexively wonder if they should leave also. Your job is to be sure they don’t find a reason to leave.
Kris Dunn started a lively debate about the pros and cons of walking them out the door, or letting them work out their notice. If they were one of your top people, trust them to work out their notice. Don’t change your behavior towards them while they work out their notice.
What about making a counter-offer? Don’t. I advise candidates to never accept a counter-offer. Once someone has resigned, they have poisoned the well – the bond of trust is broken and it’s time for them to move on. They are not “sending a message” or “trying to get your attention” when they resign, they are quitting. Let them go – nobody is indispensable – learn to get on without them. Resigning is not a negotiating tactic – trust me on this one – you will regret the day you ever let it become one in your organization.
Michael Bloomberg famously banned going away parties for departing employees. (OK, I agree with him on that point, those things are awful). He would not even shake your hand when you left. He would not re-hire you. I think this is a missed opportunity. Few things are as powerful as re-hiring someone who left for greener pastures and came back – they are a cautionary tale for everyone else who ever contemplated leaving. I recommend that you stay in touch, check in with them. If the new job was a mistake, they might be open to coming back if you keep the door open. Of course, by that point, you may have upgraded to an even better employee and have no interest in re-hiring them … but hey, it’s good to have options.