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A Key Employee Is Leaving The Building


Have you ever received an unexpected and unwanted resignation from a key employee? Did you notice personal responses mentally, emotionally and mentally? How long did those responses last? While we hope for the best, daddy would tell our family that it is hard to think in the midst of a storm. Therefore, an outline of a plan is required that will address your emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

Acknowledge your emotions and anticipate the emotions that may be exhibited by the rest of the team members. As a leader and person, you cannot address what you cannot or will not acknowledge. Validating your uncomfortable feelings should allow you to do the same for the rest of the team more quickly. Acknowledge, validate, and begin dealing with your emotions, yet do not become consumed in your emotions. If you become consumed with your emotions, you will think and make decisions based on your emotions. Those who function from their emotions play checkers, while those who function from their rational thoughts play chess.

Do not succumb to thinking you have to replace the employee immediately. In the first Karate kid movie, Mr. Miyagi told his pupil, “Patience Danielson. Patience.” Begin your thought process by painting the end vision first. What do you want the next organizational shift to look like after it is completed? Think the next steps through quickly without getting paralysis from analysis. It is important that you think through the position’s current role and what the role should entail in the future. Think in terms of writing an outline, macroscopically first (40,000-foot elevation) and then microscopically (40,000 foot to runway elevation). Use your eyes and your ears to guide your thinking. Observe and assess the vocal cues and non-verbal communication coming from your team and stakeholders. Listen objectively and openly to all input received. A golden nugget could be in between the lines. Move forward making the best data-informed decisions.

Your actions do speak louder than words. Immediately, thank the employee for the investment of their time and talent verbally and again when you email them acknowledging receipt and acceptance of their letter of resignation. Communicate the employee’s departure to the team. Inform them that the resignation is not what you wanted, change is inevitable, and you are working on a resolution that will continue moving the organization forward. If possible let the team know that you are happy for the next phase in the employee’s life journey. Call important stakeholders, i.e. board members, vendors, contractors, etc. Seek important data from your stakeholders regarding your plan. You may receive an excellent employee referral from them. Hold periodic meetings with the team to communicate the plan and the progress being made on the plan. Schedule and conduct an exit interview with the resigning employee. Ask for and receive a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the organization, position and your leadership. I always remember what my mother says, “Don’t ask a question, if you don’t want to hear the answer.”

View the unexpected resignation as an opportunity for growth for you, the team, stakeholders, and organization. If you embrace the opportunity, you will embrace the growth. Follow the plan so you do not become weary in your well doing.


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