How to Handle an Employee Resignation

Dealing With an Employee Resignation Depends on the Circumstances

Midsection Of Employee Giving Resignation Letter To Manager Sitting On Desk
Pattanaphong Khuankaew / EyeEm / Getty Images

Face it. Sooner or later, even the best employer has employees resign. They think that they've found a better opportunity or their spouse has accepted a job out-of-state. They decide to stay home with children or find themselves providing long-term care for a parent.

The reasons are endless for what causes an employee resignation. But, each employee's resignation poses the employer with the same series of questions.

  • How do you announce the employee's resignation?
  • Who needs to know what about the employee resignation?
  • When do you tell your employees about the employee resignation?
  • Should you let the employee post a say goodbye email on the company discussion board or email the entire staff with a say goodby note?
  • What to do if the exiting employee asks you to write a generic reference letter?

Answers to the Questions About Employee Resignation

Here are answers to the many questions you may have about employee resignation.

An employee has just resigned. The norm is that the employee tells you verbally that he or she is resigning from your company. You need to immediately refer the resignation to your Human Resources department to make sure that you are following your organization's time-tested procedures. You do not want to treat this resigning employee any differently than your organization has treated employees in the past.

In most cases, you will ask the resigning employee to write a formal resignation letter with their final date of employment stated. This letter protects you from unemployment claims and other charges of impropriety.

Dealing With an Employee Resignation

An employee resignation always causes some disruption in the workflow, however, if the employee resigning is valued and you decide to let him or her work their final two weeks, they can do a lot to make the transition successful. This assumes that you have assessed that the individual will remain a positive contributor until their final day. The majority of employees who leave a job want to leave you with a positive experience of their leaving for their future success.

They can wrap up loose ends, provide details about ongoing projects, and email friends and coworkers about their leaving. Make sure that you assign employees to pick up the work of the departing employee. They will have a head start if they can confer with the person who is leaving to understand the challenges and details of their job.

These assigned replacement employees also need to see a list of the goals and responsibilities for which the position is responsible. It is to everyone's advantage that they understand the context, not just the daily to-dos, of the employee who is leaving the organization. This will enable them to better train his or her replacement when that person is hired.

Additionally, if the employee resigning has customer contact responsibilities, they can provide an introduction to the person who will pick up their responsibilities.

You might ask administrative employees, and others who have jobs with clear and documentable responsibilities, to create a procedure manual prior to their departure. But, hopefully, you already have these procedures documented and in place.

Notification to Coworkers and Customers About an Employee Resignation

To notify other employees about an employee's resignation, start by telling the employee's own department about the employee's resignation. Perhaps call a quick meeting and inform the other employees that the employee's last day is in two weeks.

Tell them that you will appreciate their help to pick up any loose ends and inform them to whom the various responsibilities have been assigned. 

Your other employees will also want to know the timeline for the replacement of the departing employee. Generally, good employees are quite willing to perform extra work or work longer hours to fill in, but they appreciate knowing the time frame during which this will be expected.

With a trusted, valued employee who will be working out their two-week notice, send out an email to notify the other employees immediately of the employee's resignation. You might say something such as:

"Mary is leaving us to pursue new opportunities at x company. Her last day at our company is March 15. Please join me in wishing Mary tremendous success in her future endeavors. We will hold a say good-bye party at Tom's Tavern on Mary's last day which is the 22nd. Please join us to wish Mary success in her new employment and to say good-bye."

Of course, before you send this information out, check with Mary to see if she is comfortable with all of the above. She may even have a personal email address that she wants to share so people can stay in touch.

In any case, make sure that you know what she wants to be shared with her coworkers. Maintaining her confidentiality, if that is what she prefers, is strongly recommended.

After the Employee Resignation

Many of your employees probably knew that Mary was looking for a new job and they also are likely to know why. Employees like closure when a valued colleague leaves so your graciousness is not only appreciated, it sends a powerful message to the employees who remain.

Of course, you will hold an exit interview during which you will become clear about why the employee is leaving.

Making counteroffers or enticing Mary to stay is not recommended for employers even if you are losing a seriously valued employee. In her mind, she has already moved on. You need to look at the situation in the same way. Mary moved on mentally when she started looking for a new job or when she determined the personal response necessary in her life situation. The time to identify and solve any problems she may have experienced is before Mary started looking for a new job.

How to Notify Employees When the Employee Resignation Is Welcome

The scenario changes if the employee resigning is not valued or you don't trust the person to carry out their responsibilities successfully during their two-week notice. In these cases, tell the employee that you will pay him or her for their time, but their services are no longer required.

Ask yourself why you continued to employ this individual under any circumstances to avoid repeating your mistake in the future. Firing an employee can be ethical, legal, moral, and appropriate.

To announce the employee's resignation, send out an immediate email to all employees stating that Mary has left the company to pursue new opportunities effective on today's date. You might add that you wish her success as she pursues her new opportunities.

Communicate also, where any of her responsibilities have been reassigned. You may want to add some details about how and when you plan to seek a replacement due to the employee's resignation. These several pieces of information will suffice when an employee is asked to leave the premises immediately.