A Key Employee Is Quitting: Now What?

It’s happened….one of your best employees just handed you their written two week’s notice. After the awkward pause and the news sinks in, you know you will need to find a means for taking care of their workload. But when it comes down to it, what do you do next?

First you should gauge the employee’s behavior for the final two week period. Some work full-out until their last hour, others fizzle and turn unproductive because they know they are leaving anyway. When the employee gives you their resignation, do they seem concerned about completing their remaining work or feel as though they can now complain and let their remaining tasks go? Depending on which of these attitudes they take on, decide how to announce the departure—an email, a meeting, or simply let that person tell the team on their own. Next, develop a plan for transitioning. Make sure you are on the same page about what needs to be done before they leave and spend ample time creating a list of regular tasks, current projects, and direct network contacts that employee has. Include detailed “loose ends” that need to be secured before the employee leaves to avoid issues after their departure. All of this will help you cover their duties in the short term.

You don’t want the employee to walk away with knowledge and skills you don’t know about or you run the risk of bringing on a new hire lacking those skills. If you are made aware of these “unknown skills”, then they can then be transferred to a different employee and/or a new hire. Then decide if you need a replacement or not. Was their workload so large you need to get a temp right away? Can you evenly distribute her tasks to other team members while you look for the ideal candidate? Or is it time to restructure the person’s duties without hiring a new employee? Lastly, wish the employee well no matter the circumstances of their resignation. You know the saying “never burn bridges”? That goes both ways. Consider a card or cake for them on their last day and verbally express your gratitude for their time and hard work for the company.