Accepting an Employee’s Resignation Professionally


There are numerous articles available, detailing the steps to take when an employee resigns, but less prolific, is information regarding the manner in which a resignation should be accepted by a manager.

As challenging as it can be for an employee to resign, resignations can come as quite a shock to an employer. Job seekers suggest that many managers, particularly those less experienced, taken by surprise with an unforeseen resignation, can respond by taking the situation very personally. As well, we hear this first hand when conducting verbal reference checks with managers on exiting employees.  At times the lines become blurred as referee’s comments shift from being performance related to a tone of; “they left me.”

As a potentially emotionally charged time for all concerned, the fact of the matter is, that people come and people go, so being able to manage the resignation process professionally is important.

How to Accept an Employee Resignation

  1. Try to maintain a calm and composed manner – avoiding an emotional reaction is the aim.
  2. Try to assess if this is a ‘heat of the moment’ situation.  If yes – recommend the employee thinks about it overnight and set a time to discuss the next day.
  3. Review the resignation letter – and prepare a written response.
  4. Keep in mind the areas that need to be highlighted with a departing employee such as confidentiality, non-compete agreement, returning of company property etc. Discuss these.
  5. Plan a handover process and check the process is being followed.
  6. Advise co-workers and payroll. Many companies have a specific protocol for this – keeping people informed is the name of the game.
  7. Keep dialogue open with the exiting employee to ensure all aspects of their leaving are being managed carefully.
  8. Arrange an exit interview – this can identify both positive and negative reasons for departure: relationship with supervisors/perception of pay, training, career opportunities/performance appraisal system.  Seek to gain the departing employees views on the working conditions offered by your organisation and ask for any suggestions for improvement.  [If you do conduct an exit interview, ensure there is a process in place for appropriate follow-up action to occur otherwise there is little value in collecting the information.]
  9. Offer to maintain a connection, professionally. You never know what the future might hold!

Professionalism is called for by all involved, when a resignation occurs.  Over the years we have heard horror stories about the poor conduct of people involved which makes you wonder just exactly what people were thinking. Some would say that the mark of a true professional can be seen during a resignation phase, be it employer or departing employee.


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