Losing an employee is a fairly rare occurrence, if it’s happening regularly you need more than this post.
When they tell you they’re leaving, it’s always polarizing, either you are devastated and have to pick yourself off the floor or you’re instantly relieved that a problem has resolved itself.
Either way, it’s a good time to take stock and sense check what’s going on. Things in your team are going to shift. You have an opportunity to relook at their position and it’s imperative that you understand the dynamics that led to this person pulling up their anchor to move along.
Is it your fault or your strength?
I’ve known bosses that react from the gut. They’re furious, feel betrayed and immediately shun the unfaithful employee.
They may be missing the point.
I got some great advice in my early years from Jerome Grady, the owner of Colorado Sky and Golf. He said if his employees weren’t head hunted in three years they weren’t very good. He believed a great manager has the ability to spot potential, hire the best and train them well.
If they’re good, motivated and enthusiastic, your competitors are going to fish in your pond, when it comes to recruiting. There will always be someone willing to offer more money, a better title or perks for a good employee that comes ready-made.
If that’s the situation, pat yourself on the back, you’d done your job well, now send them off with good wishes. They will talk about you for years as the best boss they’ve ever had.
But… how do you know if that’s the case?
It’s important to understand the reason that person started looking for a job in the first place. I had a boss ask if a certain manager was the reason I was taking a new job, I answered “No, but he was the reason I started looking.”
This is a rare opportunity to get some unguarded feedback about what’s going on in the team or department. Take advantage of that small window when your employee is still part of the team but no longer dependant on it.
Get the goods
Ask what they’ve learned that they’ll take with them? Ask what they struggled with that they couldn’t resolve? Ask if they had one piece of advice for you, what would it be?
If you can step away from the emotion and not get defensive, this is an amazing chance to learn a little more about what works and what doesn’t. Are there things in their comments you were unaware of or perhaps just ignored? Are there things they expected of you that didn’t happen, triggering their hunt to find a new position?
Managing people is an endless learning experience; you can’t intuitively know it all. Losing someone from your staff is never easy. But, it is a chance to learn a little more about the impact you have on the people who expect you to lead them.
And if you lead them to the door, send them off with good will. They are now your personal advocates or antagonists. Years from now what will they be saying about you?
If you’re on the other side and offering your resignation, see my post on how to resign with dignity