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How to Handle a Key Employee's Departure

Keep business running smoothly with these tips for a proper parting.

It's natural to be disappointed and even hurt when a key employee resigns, but it's up to you to make the next two weeks--and the transition afterward--as smooth as possible for you, your team and your soon-to-be-former employee.

Take Action Now

The hiring process takes time, so you'll need to act quickly. First, look within your own firm for a replacement, preferably someone who can step into the departing employee's shoes with minimal training and minimal disruption to the rest of the organization. Or, determine if the job responsibilities can be parceled out to other employees, at least temporarily. Be careful, though, not to strain already overburdened employees.

If an internal candidate isn't available, tap into your network of existing employees, partners and other business contacts for recommendations, while posting the job on job sites. Consider engaging a short-term staffing agency to help the firm run uninterrupted.

Conduct an Exit Interview

Uncovering why an employee is leaving can give you insight into looming problems within the firm, help you find the right replacement and ward off other potential resignations. If the employee is not comfortable verbally disclosing the reason for leaving, ask him or her to put the reasons in writing instead.

Whatever the reason for their departure, resist the urge to make a counteroffer. If the employee truly loved the job, he or she wouldn't be leaving. Remember that it's rare that an employee plans to stay with a firm forever and that it may be best to just let go.

Celebrate Their Contributions

If the employee is leaving on good terms, celebrate all they've done for the firm. Treat the staff to lunch and present him or her with a simple parting gift. If a recommendation is deserved, be sure to provide it in writing before the employee's last day.

Even if the employee is leaving on not-so-great terms, be gracious and positive. Thank him or her for all they've done.

Reassure Others

The resignation of a key employee can be upsetting to the entire organization, as employees worry about how work will get done and how the departure affects their own position. Remain positive and upbeat about the future. If the employee had contact with customers, reach out to them to deliver the news and convey your commitment.

Though it may be difficult, try to view the resignation as an opportunity for the firm to move forward.


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