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June 2012
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So, you have an employee leaving ...


Last month, I wrote about resigning your job from the perspective of the employee, and the professionalism that you ought to display throughout the process.

I received a number of calls and comments around town from people with their own story. I guess that was to be expected since almost everyone has resigned or otherwise left an employer at some point.

But now I want to write the same theme from the supervisor's point of view. The scenario is that an employee has just told you of plans to leave (or retire).

My first words of advice are basically the same as those I had to the employee: stay professional, get the resignation in writing, and focus on having the job be left in the best possible status.

Hopefully, the employee has provided you some notice of leaving. Please understand there is no law requiring this, but it is a courtesy to offer two weeks or more. By the way, in Europe, it is expected that an employee will give a month or more of notice. Wow.

Here's my main advice: you really must take full advantage of whatever notice the employee gives you. On the same day the employee tells you, ask for a short written resignation letter for the file. Before the end of the day, give the person a copy of the current job description and schedule a meeting with the employee for the very next day to discuss and update this description.

During this day two discussion, in addition to updating the facts of the job, you should take the opportunity to get the employee's opinion on some of the details that aren't in writing. For example, inquire as to what parts of the job are the most difficult to complete and why. Be prepared that you may be part of the answer. Also, ask about the tedious parts of the job and how the employee has found shortcuts to minimize the boredom.

End this discussion with the employee in as positive a manner as possible. Ask for the employee's assistance in the remaining days to prepare the job for someone else to take over. Have them make a list of any upcoming critical deadlines and then go over that list with them before they leave.

I suggest that each day of the notice period, you find a reason to speak to the employee about their current job. The more you can informally find out about their opinions about the job and why they are leaving, the less risk you will have in replacing them (or finding a way to get the job done without having to hire an eventual replacement).

I strongly suggest that you not wait until the last day and then try to get it all in a formal exit interview. In all my HR years, I don't recall that I ever had anything positive come out of a final-day discussion.

I am sad to say that I have seen many a manager knee-jerk react to a resignation by telling the employee to get out and not even work out their notice period. I am embarrassed by this lack of professionalism. By doing this, you are showing your entire workforce that you are spiteful and uncaring - hardly the attributes you want to instill. And you miss the chance to get critical input from the one person who knows the job the best. Use the notice period to the max to prepare your business for the future.

There are other scenarios that I would like to discuss, such as when a person is being promoted or being transferred to another location. I will also write about the pros and cons of making a counteroffer for the person to stay and what to do if the person becomes disruptive in the office during the notice period. I will save these for next month.

Randy Fox, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is founder and senior partner of Capstone HR Services, Inc.

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