When the time comes to say goodbye – 10 tips for managers

Gone are the times when an employee would spend their entire career in one company - 2 if they were really adventurous. In 2020, if you’re lucky enough to still have your job, I don’t believe for one second that you will stay in that company until the day of your retirement. Part of the life-cycle of an employee and a manager is managing the goodbyes, so here are 10 tips to help managers with that specific part of their job. 



1. Don’t be an ass. 

While that should really go without saying, regardless of how sad, stressed, annoyed, let down or frustrated you feel, remember that at some point, you were and will be that employee who will say goodbye. 

True most people leave their managers, rather than their companies, but there’s no need to feel betrayed or stabbed in the back. If the employee felt they didn’t get along with you, chances are, you weren’t that fond of them in the first place. 



2. This emergency becomes your priority 

Someone is leaving your team, and whether they have 1 week or 4 weeks’ notice,  this is an emergency from a team and workload management perspective. Within 24 hours of the person resigning, you should have a plan in place on how you will redistribute their workload.  

Obviously, it can take a while longer when the employee’s position is really strategic, but this should really be your first priority. It’s distressing for the exiting employee not to know where they stand, should they keep working as normal, or working on their handover. 



3. Negotiate the notice period down 

Let’s be totally honest here: we know for a fact that 99% of the handovers happen in the last week of employment and that once the employee has resigned, they’re no longer engaged in their work, regardless of how conscientious they are.  

If they are in sales or in recruitment, they’ve forfeited their commission and bonus, so are you really that short-handed that you need to retain that employee for their full 4 weeks’ notice period? 



4. Don’t take their toys away 

This is a direct corollary to #1. Whatever amount of time you’re making your employee work during their notice, don’t take all of their projects from them straight away.  

Realistically, writing a detailed handover takes half a day, 2 days if you’re documenting all of your processes. And then what? What does the employee do for the other 28 days of their notice period?  

If you’re going to move the employee away from their day to day normal tasks, you need to provide them with other tasks. There is nothing more depressing than being finished with your handover and sitting at your desk “in case the team has questions” (true story) without having anything to do. Even though the employee may be leaving on good terms, this will leave them with a very sour taste. 



5. Don’t try and squeeze them like a lemon 

Yeah, the employee is leaving, you’re livid, and there’s a boatload of work to be done. Even the most conscientious and zealous employee will feel poorly treated if you keep piling work on them during their notice. There’s nothing to gain for them, they will probably not see the project come to fruition; this is not conducive to engagement and productive work. 



6. Make a counter-offer and I’ll beat you up with a rusty shovel 

Really, there’s very little else to say. Counter-offers are evil. No-one in their right mind should accept them, so you really should not make them.  

Google is full of reasons as to why a counter-offer should not be accepted, so I’m not going to go into more details here because I’m already getting angry. 



7. Communicate that the person is leaving 

Tell the team, tell the stakeholders in the business. There’s no point hiding that the person is leaving once you’ve made a plan to redistribute the workload - see point #2.  

A strong, clear and timely communication will nip any gossip in the bud, other team members will get a chance to say goodbye, to raise their hands to take on some of the workload and to get the knowledge transfer that they might otherwise miss out on. 



8. Respect the employee’s privacy 

Your employee is resigning, you have no right to demand from them to tell you where they’re going. Most people will volunteer the information, but they should not be pressed to disclose anything.  

If your company/team is operating under a non-compete and the employee refuses to disclose the name of their new employer, then the HR team is there to support you with the legal aspects of it. 



9. Don’t cut off their email access before they’re out of the building 

Another true story. If the employee is due to finish at 5pm, don’t cut off their email access right after they sent a global goodbye email. Unless that employee is most disliked by everyone, a bunch of people are going to reply to the goodbye email that they sent, and if they get a bounce back they will think the person is already gone and feel bad that they didn’t get to say goodbye. And that doesn’t even take into account the exiting person walking into colleagues in the corridor or the lift when everyone thought they’d already left. It’s just a lousy experience for everyone.  

Walk the person out, elbow bump them (hello COVID) and wish them the best – then give IT the go-ahead to close their accesses. 



10. Leave the pettiness out 

Once the person has exited your team/business, don’t rewrite the narrative. Whether the person resigned, didn’t pass probation, was made redundant or had to be let go for another reason; stick to what you had communicated to the team when the exit was announced (even if it serves your purpose to say something else later on, see point #1).