Letters of Resignation

This morning I read an interesting piece from Greg Savage that touched on the subject of how to handle an employee resigning from your team. It talks about all the ways managers harm themselves and their organizations by taking out their frustrations with the situation on the outgoing employee(s). Savage made some really good points; being an HR guy I’ve seen managers react to employee notices in many of the ways described in the piece… but historically I’ve always struggled to empathize. One reason for this lack of manager empathy might be because I’ve done enough exit interviews to know that employees sometimes have very good reasons for leaving their jobs. And another reason might be because on a personal level I’ve had points in my career where I’ve grappled with similar emotions, in one case actually even resigning from a company.

…For a combination of the above reasons, whenever I’ve spoken with a resigning employee (in either an exit interview or any other context), I’ve wished them well and really meant it. I’ve always hoped they find success in their new role – no animosity on my end whatsoever. People leave jobs all the time – it’s part of life.

…With that said, I’ve also never had an employee voluntarily leave one of my teams. I’ve let go poor performing team members, but I’ve never had a strong performer resign. And so reading Savage’s post this morning, I found myself reflecting on how it would feel to have a valued direct in an operationally important role quit. Would I handle it with grace? I would like to think so. But in cases where I haven’t optimized knowledge transfer yet it would be tough on the business… and I would definitely be upset. I don’t know that I would take it personally…but then again I’ve never really been there.

How do you prepare for something like that? Looking at the subject strictly on an anecdotal level, I imagine that it happens to most managers eventually.

This is just a thought stream… as always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.