How to Respond When an Employee Quits

Posted August 2 2022 By Ashlene McFadden

There has been so much talk about “the great resignation”. It seemed like, every day, you would log on to LinkedIn or catch up with a candidate and realise they had moved on from their current role.

This list of reasons behind these moves seemed endless – better salaries needed to stave off the cost of living crisis; hybrid, remote or flexible working not being offered by current employers; lack of learning and development or progression opportunities; low morale and poor communication; post-Covid burnout.

And with no signs that candidate movement is slowing down, you may well be facing a resignation within your own team.

That being said, some candidates have found that the grass is not always greener – despite whatever promises were made to them. This makes it all the more important that an employee has a positive exit, leaving the door open for talent to return (should it be the right thing for both parties).

So, what is the best way to react? Here are my top tips for responding to an employee’s resignation.


It can be hard, when you’re on the receiving end of an unexpected resignation, to remain thoroughly objective and professional. But what you don’t want is an ill-advised negative comment to escape you. So, take a breath, pause and think about what your first response will be. It’s okay to be surprised, and to express this verbally or non-verbally, but you should avoid being dismissive or negative.

Stay in the moment

Don’t let your mind start racing, panicking about projects that are upcoming or handovers or clients. Stay in the present. After your pause to recollect your thoughts, ensure that your commentary is specific to your employee in that very moment. Constructive sentences like, “There is no doubt we will miss you, but this sounds like a fantastic opportunity at this point in your career,” are reassuring and positively framed.

Don’t take it personally

It can be really difficult to avoid adding your personal feelings into the mix. Maybe the phrase about people not leaving jobs but leaving managers has popped into your head. But don’t allow this to colour your reaction. Don’t ask, “Is it something I’ve done?” Even if you could have been a better manager, now is not the time to start asking for feedback. Yes, your ego may take a bit of a bruising, but there could be any number of reasons – beyond your control – as to why this person is leaving.

Ask questions

Show a genuine interest in your employee. You may well be tempted to ask, “What could we do to keep you right now?” but if you know that you will be unable to deliver on any meaningful change, it’s probably best to avoid this. Instead, focus on questions about the new opportunity. “What makes you excited about this new role?” is a great question to ask – because it enables you to learn what is important to your employee. And, if the things that are important to them are things that your company is not currently doing or offering, you will need to have a discussion with your managerial peers about what can be done to improve things.

Be supportive

When your employee tells you what is exciting about this new role, continue to maintain interest and support. Tell them what a fantastic opportunity it will be for their learning, development and growth. Beyond this, maintain these levels of positivity during the employee’s notice period. You don’t want to make their last few weeks and months at your company feel miserable. It’s okay to feel disappointed at their departure, but this shouldn’t impact how you treat them during their notice.

Ensure a smooth handover

It should be crystal clear what you need from your departing employee. Whether it’s training existing colleagues on systems, leaving detailed notes and case studies or simply the password to a specific bit of tech, make a list of everything you need and ask them to cross-reference this with their daily duties. You want everything to be smooth and straight-forward so that they can leave on the very best of terms … and you won’t be left worrying about knowledge gaps.


The jobs market continues to be a challenge for accountancy businesses. If you’d like to speak to me about your recruitment strategy – both long- and short-term – I’d be delighted to help. Click here to drop me an email and get in touch.

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