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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Bullock

How to react as a leader when a key team member resigns

It's never easy to lose exceptional individuals. It creates more work for you and the other team members who must jump in to fill the vacancy, and it can be detrimental to the company's morale and 'optics' (how a situation looks to the public).

Some of your employees may be thinking, "If someone so significant is prepared to resign, perhaps we should start looking about as well..."

When ineffective people go, what happens?

Unsurprisingly, successful firms improve when 'bad' employees go. Whether it's a lack of cultural fit or a job-fit problem, the organisation becomes stronger when someone who isn't a good fit leaves.

But what about the good guys?

Organisations can still improve even when great individuals leave. Yes, those 'perfect-fit' people are physically gone, but the job they did, the resources they created, the individuals they impacted, the benchmarks they raised...all of it will go on long after they have left the building.

The business has become stronger, thanks to their presence.

People frequently resign because they resent their supervisor, see limited opportunities for advancement or are offered a better opportunity.

Explore these areas by asking specific questions like:

  • If we could go back in time, say six months, what could we have done to keep you?

  • What were the highlights and lowlights of your role? How would you rate the workload on a scale of 1–­­10? What aspects of the position would you modify to make it better for the next person?

  • What possibilities for advancement do you wish you had received?

While you should pose these questions and allow the employee's responses to lead the dialogue, strive to gather suggestions for the future rather than comments on the past.

Examine the data you've collected for patterns or trends. Is there an aspect of your leadership that needs to be improved?

TAKEAWAY: Resignations are difficult for any team or company. Using resignation as a catalyst for learning and progress can help alleviate the negative feelings of losing a valuable employee and allow you to focus on what is most important: helping and maintaining those who have stayed.


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