How To Let Go Of Your Employee Amicably
Did you know, how you let go of an employee plays a major role in shaping your brand image.
Letting an employee go isn’t an easy task. Any exit, whether it is based on mutual consent or a sudden exit or a tough exit where you have to ask an employee to leave; it all affects your everyday work. How you let go of an employee has a huge impact on various other aspects of your workplace – namely recruitment, retention, employee morale and most importantly your employer brand.
How? Well, while exiting an employee might not hesitate to judge you based on the way you let them go and publicise it to everyone they meet. Consider an employee going for an interview with a new company and not having the best review about your firm. If they have 20 different interviews in the following month, they would be criticising your company in front of 20 prospective customers or collaborators. If the number of employees doing this increases, imagine the dent it would leave on your brand image.
It has an impact on candidate referrals as well. An upset employee today has several platforms to voice their concerns. We live in the digital era and for a potential candidate it is not difficult to learn more about the ways of work in your organisation. While placing new candidates for our clients, often I’ve been asked about the organisation culture and more importantly ‘can I speak to an ex-employee of this company’.
Candidates today ask more questions than they did before. They scroll reams of social media platforms to gather information about the company they want to work for. I can safely say this practise was not prevalent a decade ago but is the most critical factor for candidates today. And the last thing an organisation would want is having this potential candidate run into an ex-employee who has had a poor experienced while exiting the company.
More and more companies today are realising the value of ‘employee experience’ and are approaching this subject with as much importance as they would approach ‘customer experience’. Just the way, the first few days are the most critical in building your brand image with a new employee, likewise, the last few days of an employee before their also has large impact on the perception about your brand. Here’s a quick guide on how you can ensure the employees exit is a positive experience.
P.S. you definitely need to take a different approach if the exit is due to negligence of work or due to a serious concern about disciplinary/ethical reasons. Write to me (email@example.com) if you need support in handling a difficult exit. For all other purposes, you will find merit in the following approach.
1. Accepting the employee’s decision with maturity
Every time there’s an employee saying “Sir/Ma’am, can we talk?” try not to jump to conclusions. A lot of times, your reaction to the employee can trigger a chain of reaction in them. Yes, you may have read it right. The primary reason the employee wants to talk to you could be about their exit. However, in my experience, its usually about an unaddressed concern. When the employee feels he/she is not heard or the concern is begin defended by the company without taking a neutral stance, this is one of the biggest reason that leads to the exit of an employee.
Give them an ear, listen to them. Try not to counter them on every line they say to you. Seeing you listen to them patiently could help them open up to you. Once they are done with the formal pitch of why they want to leave, you then can initiate the talk of asking what the other reasons are that led them to this decision. Take a neutral perspective and decide if the employees concerns can be addressed. If yes, great. You might be able to retain this employee. If no, at least you know what led them to this decision and you can accept his/her decision without burning all bridges.
2. If you want to retain the employee, ask them directly
In a situation where you think you can address the employees concerns or provide something that will motivate the employee to stay, ask them directly – “What can I do to make you stay?” Just like you, your employee would also like it when you’re direct and honest with them. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t make someone else do your job of asking. Often, the answer to this question would match their reason of resignation too, in which case, you might solve the concern and delay the resignation to a distant future.
The motivation might not always be money so be mindful before offering it upfront. Instead try to understand what the personal aspiration or other non-monetary motivation is. Understand all the factors that could have played a part and suggest relevant solutions for their retention.
3. Accept the resignation with dignity
At times, despite all your efforts the employee decides to move on. Don’t take it personally, chances are the employee needs to make a transition to an alternative career or role. Perhaps needs to experience a new sector all together. At this point, accept the resignation without any resistance or conditions.
Be cautious about not being too demanding from them just because they chose to move on. Try to avoid placing conditions such as ‘you can only leave if you complete this’ or ‘if you submit this’ or ‘find your right replacement, train them and then leave’. This would not just be unfair, but it will also send an ominous message to all your present employees.
4. Make the notice period clear but comfortable
Almost every company safeguards its interests by enforcing a notice period to facilitate a smooth transition. It is right on your part to expect the person to serve the notice period, but lack of clarity makes it difficult for the employees. Also, to be fair to the employee, the notice period tasks are lopsided and only concerned about the company side of things.
For a moment, play along with me here, imagine the employee as a guest visiting your home for a short vacation. When they are leaving, you tend to remind them about their personal belongings, ensure they have what they need for their travel, you probably buy them some good-bye gifts, you certainly invite them to come over again. What we don’t do is ask the guests, did you make the bed right, did you hand over the blanket, etc. I guess you get the drift.
An employee is not a guest but is the custodian of our brand image. The notice period is in place to ensure that the company has time to replace the resource, but in the meantime, the employee is still working for you and should be treated with respect. This would not only increase employee satisfaction but also send an empathetic message to others on the team.
5. Maintain healthy communication till the last day
It’s natural for your employee to feel awkward or out of place, once they have spoken about the resignation. But you can always use this as an opportunity for healthy employee communication. Involve the employee in discussions and brainstorming at least on all existing work, if not in new business. The employee is still a productive individual and would appreciate being treated like one.
Yes, like the common workplace lingo suggests, at times employees also behave like they are on their honeymoon period. They become slow and produce poor quality work. But this too is a cumulative effect that begins from unaddressed concerns, to difficult resignation conversations, to upset teams or bosses, to sometimes unconsciously being treated as an extra pair of hands.
Find ways to involve the employee in everyday communications like you would do if they hadn’t resigned. This would also help you take up issues regarding handover and completing tasks they are supposed to complete, with ease.
6. Don’t hold on to someone’s salary as ransom
Though money might not be the motivator for an employee to stay, it’s definitely one of the important reasons why they worked for you. Hence, holding their salary as ransom would not really be a good idea. Alternatively, direct your efforts towards avoiding such a situation where they have their final payment delayed.
This can be done by ensuring proper handover process, maintaining timelines, and deliverables should be clearly agreed upon before accepting the resignation. The same should be documented and a regular follow-up should be done to ensure everything is on track. There should be a mutual effort to complete all tasks, rather than the employee chasing behind various departments to meet all deliverables.
7. Wish them a farewell
Finally, wish them well. It is the final activity that you can undertake to ensure that your employees leave feeling cherished, and not with a sour taste in their mouth. An employee that leaves feeling wanted is more likely to recommend your firm to others. At the very least, it ensures goodwill and positivity.
Your employees, past and present, are your biggest brand ambassadors. Which is why when they decide to move on, it’s best to handle it amicably. Not only does it instil confidence amongst the current employees, but it also increases your brand reputation as an employer. Do what you can to retain your employees. Sometimes, implementing the solution might be easier than bidding goodbye. Just making small changes can transform your workplace to an enabling environment.
At Yellow Spark, we help our clients develop customised strategies to retain their talent. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for effective employee solutions for your business.
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer, and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.